Quitting smoking cold turkey means to stop all at once without the help of medications like nicotine gum, patches or e-cigarettes. Cold turkey also means that you don’t reduce your smoking beforehand. For a pack a day smoker, that’s like going from 20
cigarettes to 0 in one day. Quitting cold turkey may be the oldest method of quitting around, but does it really work?
Does Quitting Smoking Cold Turkey Work?
Although it is not recommended by many government health agencies, many smokers have been able to kick their smoking habit by quitting cold turkey. Nicotine withdrawal is very powerful and takes an enormous amount of will power to counteract. Nicotine replacement therapy (NRT) like nicotine gum reduces the symptoms associated with withdrawal and has been shown to increase the chances of success by up to 70% based on a 2012 Cochrane review .
That’s not to say quitting smoking cold turkey doesn’t work, but medications do increase your chance of success. If you do chose to quit cold turkey, it’s important to be mentally prepared to deal with the symptoms of withdrawal. Select a quit date and stick with it, tell others about your plans, and know that the symptoms of nicotine withdrawal are temporary and will pass with time! The more prepared you are beforehand the better your chances of quitting.
Alternatives to Cold Turkey – Gradual Reduction
Gradual reduction (also called the cut down to quit method) is an alternative to cold turkey. This involves reducing the number of cigarettes smoked prior to quitting. Some smokers cut their cigarettes all the way down to 0 or to a lower level of 3 to 4 a day before fully quitting. While cutting back, smokers can also use medication or e-cigarettes to support their attempt. Research shows that there is no difference between quitting cold turkey or gradual reduction . We recommend using an app like Quitbit or our smart cigarette lighter to support your gradual reduction so you can stay on pace to quit!
Everyone’s path to quitting is going to be different. As always, we recommend smokers to choose the method that they feel would work best for them. If cold turkey didn’t work last time, this time try cutting back a few and taking some Nicorette gum or puffs of an e-cig while doing so. There is no magic bullet, so stay strong!
- Stead LF, Perera R, Bullen C, Mant D, Hartmann-Boyce J, Cahill K, Lancaster T. Nicotine replacement therapy for smoking cessation. Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews 2012, Issue 11. Art. No.: CD000146. DOI: 10.1002/14651858.CD000146.pub4.
- Lindson-Hawley N, Aveyard P, Hughes JR. Reduction versus abrupt cessation in smokers who want to quit. Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews 2012, Issue 11. Art. No.: CD008033. DOI: 10.1002/14651858.CD008033.pub3.