How To Find The Best Way To Quit Smoking For You

This may not be your first time quitting smoking and possibly, it won’t be your last. Studies suggest that Canadians take on average between three[1] and thirty attempts to quit successfully.[2]

Whatever your magic number is, don’t get demotivated by a lack of instant success. Like any major achievement, quitting smoking takes dedication. Think of any unsuccessful attempt as part of the search to finding your own best way to quit smoking.

After all, there is no definitive ‘best’ way to quit smoking other than the one that helps you quit for good.

Quitting smoking cold turkey

What it is:

Quitting cold turkey means deciding to quit immediately and without the help of any stop smoking products. 

How it works:

When you quit smoking cold turkey, willpower is your main source of assistance. You choose a day that is best for you, prepare for it, then you stop smoking all at once.

Quick facts:

- When you quit cold turkey, withdrawal symptoms can begin within two to three hours. Initially the symptoms are likely to get worse during your first week, but will then begin to subside.[3]

- Common withdrawal symptoms include: headaches, depression, irritability, anxiety, restlessness etc. These symptoms can last up to three months.[4]

- Quitting smoking cold turkey is the most popular way to quit,[5] but it isn’t the most successful. The long term success rate for people who quit smoking cold turkey is around five percent.[6]

Quitting smoking with the help of nicotine replacement therapy

What it is:

Instead of using tobacco, nicotine replacement therapy (NRT) provides the human body with small doses of nicotine, which are delivered directly into the bloodstream.[7] By using this form of therapy, the amount of nicotine your body receives will gradually decrease, reducing the severity of withdrawal symptoms and leaving you better able to cope with cravings.

Popular forms of NRT include:[8]

  • skin patches
  • chewing gum
  • inhalers
  • tablets or lozenges

How it works:

Nicotine replacement therapy (NRT) works by releasing nicotine into your bloodstream at a steady pace, which is done at a much lower level than a cigarette. The goal is to cut down on cravings and withdrawal symptoms.

Depending on what type of option you choose, you can completely replace cigarettes with nicotine replacement therapy, or in the case of options like nicotine gum, you can gradually reduce your smoking, by replacing cigarettes with gum. Read more about reducing to quit here.

Quick facts:

- Clinical trials and studies have shown that NRT can increase your chances of quitting smoking by 50-70% compared to unassisted quitting.[9]

- Nicotine replacement therapy is most effective for people who smoke more than 15 cigarettes a day.[10] If you smoke less, NRT can still play a role in helping you quit. Try this product finder to find the best quit smoking option for you, or talk to your doctor.

- NRT products do not contain tar, carbon monoxide and other toxic chemicals that are in tobacco smoke.[11]

Smoking cessation counselling

What It is

Support for smokers in the form of phone support (quit lines such as the Smokers’ Helpline), text messages or community support programs.

How It Works

In the case of quit lines, smokers and ex-smokers call for advice on things like making a quit plan, handling withdrawal symptoms and information on smoking cessations aids.

In the case of text messages, you can sign up to be sent messages of support to your phone.

Quick Facts:

A 2009 study showed that after six months smokers who received telephone counselling were 29% more likely to have been successful in their attempts than those who did not receive counselling.[12]
A trial of smokers who received text message support found that they had double the success rate of those that did not receive text message support after six months.[13]