How To Help Someone Find The Best Way To Quit Smoking

Whatever way your friend or family member chooses to quit, you can play a big part in increasing their chances of success. Research suggests that as many as 73% of successful ex-smokers listed the support of friends and family as crucial to the outcome.[1]

Of course, support isn’t the only factor. Choice of quit strategy plays a big part too: deciding whether to go cold turkey, use nicotine replacement therapy, or to see counselling from phone or text services.

Ultimately, it is the smoker’s choice as to how they want to play it. Whether it’s for a first try at quitting or another attempt after lapse, if you’re looking to support them with information, this overview of three common quit strategies can help you find the best way to quit smoking.

Quitting smoking cold turkey

What it is:

Quitting cold turkey means deciding to quit immediately and without the help of any nicotine replacement therapy (NRT) products.

How it works:

When someone quits smoking by going cold turkey, willpower is the main source of assistance, along with support of people like you. It’s simple to support someone quitting smoking cold turkey: just help them pick an appropriate quit day, prepare for it, then encourage them push on through those tough initial smoke-free days.

Quick facts:

- When a smoker quits cold turkey, withdrawal symptoms typically begin within two to three hours, and initially the symptoms are likely to get worse during your first week, but will then begin to subside.[2]

- Common withdrawal symptoms include: headaches, depression, irritability, anxiety restlessness etc. These symptoms can last up to three months,[3] so remember to be patient if someone you know is quitting cold turkey.

- Quitting smoking cold turkey is the most popular way to quit,[4] but it isn’t the most successful. The long term success rate for people who quit smoking cold turkey is around five percent.[5]

Quitting smoking with the help of nicotine replacement therapy

What it is:

Instead of using tobacco, NRT provides the body with small doses of nicotine, which are delivered directly into the bloodstream.[6] By using this form of therapy, the amount of nicotine the body craves will gradually decrease over time, enabling a former smoker to cope with withdrawal symptoms and cravings that result from quitting smoking.

Popular forms of NRT include:[7]

  • skin patches
  • chewing gum
  • inhalers
  • tablets or lozenges
  • nasal spray or mouth spray

How it works:

Nicotine replacement therapy (NRT) works by releasing nicotine into the bloodstream at a steady pace, which is done at a much lower level than a cigarette. The goal of this quit-smoking therapy is to cut down on cravings and withdrawal symptoms that many smokers feel, especially when they quit cold turkey.

Quick facts:

- Clinical trials and studies have shown that NRT can increase the chances of quitting smoking by 50-70% compared to unassisted quitting.[8]

- Nicotine replacement therapy is most effective for people who smoke more than 15 cigarettes a day.[9] But there are products aimed at people who smoke fewer cigarettes, or just need assistance coping with cravings.

- NRT products do not contain tar, carbon monoxide and other toxic chemicals that are in tobacco smoke.[10]

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 info on cessations aids.

In the case of text messages your friend 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.[11]
A trial of smokers who received text message support found that they had double the success rate than those that did not receive text message support after 6 months.[12]