Smokers who stop abruptly rather than cutting down gradually over time are more successful, a new study has found.
Those with the willpower to go cold turkey are 25 per cent more successful at quitting than those who wind down the habit gradually according to researchers from Oxford University.
The study funded by the British Heart Foundation involved 697 smokers who had decided to stop. The group was split into two, with one asked to quit on a given day. The other was also set a quit day, but gradually reduced their tobacco use two weeks prior to the date.
Each group was given advice and support, as well as access to cessation tools such as nicotine patches, gum or mouth spray.
When the participants were revisited a month after their quit day, 50 per cent of those who stopped abruptly were still not smoking compared with 39 per cent of those who did so gradually. Therefore, those who went cold turkey were 25 per cent more likely to be successful.
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Dr Nicola Lindson-Hawley, from Oxford University who lead the study said: "The difference in quit attempts seemed to arise because people struggled to cut down.
"It provided them with an extra thing to do, which may have put them off quitting altogether. If people actually made a quit attempt then the success rate was equal across groups.
"We also found that more people preferred the idea of quitting gradually than abruptly; however regardless of what they thought they were still more likely to quit in the abrupt group."
The difference between the two groups was clear from the start, as more of the cold turkey quitters were able to stave of smoking for at least 24 hours than those in the other group.
However, smokers who find it “quite impossible” to quit should try to cut down slowly rather than simply give up, advised Dr Lindson-Hawley.
"For these people it is much better to attempt to cut down their smoking than do nothing at all and we should increase support for gradual cessation to increase their chances of succeeding," she said.
The research is reported in the journal Annals of Internal Medicine.
Dr John Hughes of the University of Vermont in Burlington, commented on the study that those who cut down are often more addicted and have failed with the cold turkey method before.
He told Reuters: "The decision to quit for most smokers is a sudden one, that often occurs because something happens to motivate them.”
"With abrupt cessation, they can act on the decision to quit immediately, while still highly motivated (in fact half of smokers quit on the same day they decide to quit)."
Additional reporting by PA