Quitting cold turkey is the best way to quit smoking, British scientists have reported.

British scientists studied nearly 700 adults who smoked a minimum of 15 cigarettes a day and were planning to quit soon. Their findings were published this week in the journal, Annals of Internal Medicine.

All of the participants were given a two-week deadline to kick the habit. Half were allowed to smoke as usual and then quit suddenly on the day of the deadline. The other half gradually weaned themselves off cigarettes during the two weeks leading up to the deadline, before stopping.

Everyone in the study received support such as behavioral counseling from nurses, nicotine patches, gum and other products to replace the nicotine. Researchers from the University of Oxford followed up, checking in with the former smokers for a month after their quit day and then again six months later to see if they were still tobacco-free.

The clear winners: those who took the cold turkey approach.

After four weeks, 49 percent of the people who abruptly stopped smoking stuck with it. Of those who gradually cut down their smoking before the deadline, only 39 percent were still abstinent four weeks later.

“Quitting smoking abruptly is more likely to lead to lasting abstinence than cutting down first,” the study authors wrote, “even for smokers who initially prefer to quit by gradual reduction.”

 

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