Most smokers who have tried to quit the habit will tell you how difficult it is to do so. The most common method involves gradually decreasing cigarette use in the hopes of an easier transition. However, new research suggests that this may not prove as effective as quitting right away.
The research, led by behavioral medicine researcher Nicola Lindson-Hawley of the University of Oxford, observed 700 U.K. individuals who smoke at least 15 cigarettes per day. All of the participants had decided to kick the smoking habit.
Researchers divided the subjects into two groups and gave them all two weeks to quit. The first group was tasked to smoke normally until they stopped abruptly on their quit date. The other group reduced their smoking gradually, from half a pack each day to a quarter of a pack and then less before quitting.
They were all provided with professional advice and support such as nicotine patches and replacement therapy.
When the participants were checked six months later, the results showed that 15.5% of the gradual-quit group had remained successfully abstinent while the immediate-quit group had a significantly higher rate of success at 22%.
“The difference in quit attempts seemed to arise because people struggled to cut down,” Lindson-Hawley said. “It provided them with an extra thing to do, which may have put them off quitting altogether.”
The group plans to do future research to find out whether gradual quitting can be made more effective.