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Ways to Quit

Different ways to quit smoking have been studied. The following are the most common methods used to help smokers quit.


People who have even a short counseling session with a health-care professional are more likely to quit smoking. Your doctor or other health care professional may take the following steps to help you quit:

  • Ask about your smoking habits at every visit
  • Advise you to stop smoking
  • Ask you how willing you are to quit
  • Help you plan to quit smoking by setting a date to quit smoking, giving you self-help materials and recommending drug treatment
  • Plan follow-up visits with you

Childhood cancer survivors who smoke may be more likely to quit when they take part in programs that use peer counseling. In these programs, childhood cancer survivors are trained in ways to give support to other childhood cancer survivors who smoke and want to quit. More people quit smoking with peer counseling than with self-help programs. If you are a childhood cancer survivor and you smoke, talk to your doctor about peer-counseling programs.

Drug Treatment

Treatment with drugs is also used to help people quit smoking. Drugs used include nicotine-replacement products and non-nicotine medicines. People who use any type of drug treatment are more likely to quit smoking after six months than those who use a placebo or no drug treatment at all.

Nicotine-replacement products have nicotine in them. You slowly reduce the use of the nicotine product in order to reduce the amount of nicotine you take in. Using a nicotine-replacement product can help break the addiction to nicotine. It lessens the side effects of nicotine withdrawal, such as feeling depressed or nervous, having trouble thinking clearly or having trouble sleeping. Nicotine-replacement products that have been shown to help people quit smoking include:

  • Nicotine gum
  • Nicotine patches
  • Nicotine nasal spray
  • Nicotine inhalers
  • Nicotine lozenges

Nicotine replacement products can cause problems in some people, especially:

  • Women who are pregnant or breast-feeding
  • Teenagers
  • People with heart rhythm problems, high blood pressure that is not controlled, esophagitis, ulcers, insulin-dependent diabetes or asthma

Other medicines that do not have nicotine in them are used to help people quit smoking. These include bupropion (also called Zyban) and varenicline (also called Chantix). These medicines lessen nicotine craving and nicotine withdrawal symptoms.

It is important to know that bupropion and varenicline may cause serious psychiatric problems.
Before starting to take bupropion or varenicline, talk to your doctor about the important health benefits of quitting smoking and the small but serious risk of problems with the use of these drugs.

Smoking Reduction

When smokers do not quit smoking completely but smoke fewer cigarettes, they may still benefit. The more you smoke, the higher your risk of lung cancer and other cancers related to smoking. Studies show that smokers who cut back are more likely to stop smoking in the future.

Smoking less is not as helpful as quitting smoking altogether, and is harmful if you inhale more deeply or smoke more of each cigarette to try to control nicotine cravings. In smokers who do not plan to quit smoking completely, nicotine-replacement products have been shown to help them cut down the number of cigarettes they smoke, but this effect does not appear to last over time .

The following resources can help you quit smoking:

  • Consumer information about quitting smoking is available at the website.
  • The online Quit Guide may help you understand reasons for smoking and the best ways to quit.
  • The booklet “Clearing the Air: Quit Smoking Today” can be ordered at 1-800-4-CANCER (1-800-422-6237) or printed here.
  • The six-week Freedom From Smoking Program is offered several times a year on the main campus of the Siteman Cancer Center at Barnes-Jewish Hospital.