Before you start using nicotine replacement or sign up for a stop smoking program, you may wonder about success rates. Success rates are hard to figure out for many reasons. First, not all programs define success in the same way. Does success mean that a person is not smoking at the end of the program? After 3 months? 6 months? 1 year? Does smoking fewer cigarettes (rather than stopping completely) count as success? If a program you’re considering claims a certain success rate, ask for more details on how success is defined and what kind of follow-up is done to confirm the rate.
The truth is that quit smoking programs, like other programs that treat addictions, often have fairly low success rates. But that doesn’t mean they’re not worthwhile or that you should be discouraged. Your own success in quitting and staying that way is what really counts, and you have some control over that. Even if you don’t succeed the first few times, keep trying. You can learn from your mistakes so that you’ll be ready for those pitfalls next time.
Success rates in general
Only about 4% to 7% of people are able to quit smoking on any given attempt without medicines or other help.
Studies in medical journals have reported that about 25% of smokers who use medicines can stay smoke-free for over 6 months. Counseling and other types of emotional support can boost success rates higher than medicines alone. There’s also early evidence that combining certain medicines may work better than using a single drug. (See the section called “Prescription drugs to help you quit smoking.”)
Behavioral and supportive therapies may increase success rates even further. They also help the person stay smoke-free. Check the package insert of any product you are using to see if the manufacturer provides free telephone-based counseling.
Last Revised: 02/06/2014