- Why is it so hard to quit smoking?
- How does smoking affect your health?
- Why quit smoking now?
- When smokers quit – what are the benefits over time?
- What are the immediate rewards of quitting smoking?
- Getting help with the mental part of addiction
- Getting help with the physical part of addiction
- Nicotine replacement therapy
- What are the types of nicotine replacement therapy?
- Choosing and using nicotine replacement therapy
- Prescription drugs to help you quit smoking
- Other methods of quitting smoking
- A word about success rates for quitting smoking
- Steps for long-term success
- Making the decision to quit smoking
- Setting a quit smoking date and making a plan
- Dealing with smoking withdrawal
- Staying smoke-free
- Special concerns after quitting smoking
- To learn more
Other methods of quitting smoking
Other tools may help some people, but there’s no strong proof that they can improve your chances of quitting.
Methods without nicotine
Hypnosis methods vary a great deal, which makes it hard to study as a way to stop smoking. For the most part, reviews that looked at controlled studies of hypnosis to help people quit smoking have not supported it as a quitting method that works. Still, some people have reported that it helped them quit. If you’d like to try it, ask your doctor to recommend a good licensed therapist who does hypnotherapy.
This method has been used to quit smoking, but there’s little evidence to show that it works. Acupuncture for smoking is usually done on certain parts of the ears. (See our document Acupuncture for more on this.) For a list of doctors who do acupuncture, contact the American Academy of Medical Acupuncture at 323-937-5514 or visit their website at www.medicalacupuncture.org.
Magnet therapy to quit smoking involves 2 small magnets that are placed at a certain location, opposite each other on either side of the ear. Magnetism holds them in place. There’s no scientific evidence to date to suggest that magnet therapy is an effective method of helping smokers stop. There are many on-line companies that sell these magnets, and they report various “success” rates. But there’s no clinical trial data to back up these claims.
Low-level laser therapy
This technique, also called cold laser therapy, is related to acupuncture. In this method, cold lasers are used instead of needles for acupuncture. The treatment is supposed to relax the smoker and release endorphins (pain relief substances that are made naturally by the body) to mimic the effects of nicotine in the brain, or balance the body’s energy to relieve the addiction. Despite claims of success by some cold laser therapy providers, there’s no scientific evidence that shows this helps people stop smoking. (See our document called Cold Laser Therapy for more.)
Filters that reduce tar and nicotine in cigarettes do not work. In fact, studies have shown that smokers who use filters tend to smoke more.
Other methods have been used to help stop smoking, such as over-the-counter products that change the taste of tobacco, stop-smoking diets that curb nicotine cravings, and combinations of vitamins. At this time there’s little scientific evidence that any of these work.
Herbs and supplements
There’s little scientific evidence to support the use of homeopathic aids and herbal supplements as stop-smoking methods. Because they are marketed as dietary supplements (not drugs), they don’t need FDA approval to be sold. This means that the manufacturers don’t have to prove they work, or even that they’re safe.
Be sure to look closely at the label of any product that claims it can help you stop smoking. No dietary supplement has been proven to help people quit smoking. Most of these supplements are combinations of herbs, but not nicotine. They have no proven track record of helping people to stop smoking.
Some studies have looked at cessation programs using yoga, mindfulness, and meditation to aid in quitting smoking. Results were not clearly in favor of these methods, but some showed lower craving and less smoking; studies are still going on. Cognitive processing methods (cognitive-behavioral approaches) are also being studied.
Researchers looking at 15 studies of exercise found that short bouts of light to moderate exercise helped reduce cravings, but most studies were too small to show reliable effects on quitting. One study suggested that people who actively took part in structured exercise programs were more likely to quit but study volunteers sometimes avoided the actual exercise, making it hard to test the effectiveness of exercise in quitting. More research using larger studies is needed.
Nicotine and tobacco products not reviewed or approved by the FDA
In 2004, a Chinese company started making a refillable “cigarette” with a battery and an electronic chip in it. It’s designed to look like a cigarette, right down to the glowing tip. When the smoker puffs on it, the system delivers a mist of liquid, flavorings, and nicotine that looks something like smoke. The smoker inhales it like cigarette smoke, and the nicotine is absorbed into the lungs.
The electronic cigarette, or e-cigarette, is sold with cartridges of nicotine and flavorings. Several brands and varieties of the e-cigarette are now sold in the United States. The e-cigarette is usually sold as a way for a smoker to get nicotine in places where smoking is not allowed, but some have sold it as a way to quit smoking. The cartridges are sold as having different doses of nicotine, from high doses to no nicotine at all.
Some research is now looking at whether e-cigarettes might help people quit smoking. One early study from New Zealand found that e-cigarettes were about as effective as nicotine patches in helping people quit after 6 months. This was only a single study, and the researchers noted that more studies are needed to determine the possible benefits and risks of e-cigarettes in helping people quit. E-cigarettes are not approved by the FDA to help people quit smoking.
There are questions about how safe it is to inhale some substances in the e-cigarette vapor into the lungs. The ingredients in e-cigarettes are not labeled, so the user doesn’t know what’s in them. The amounts of nicotine and other substances a person gets from each cartridge are also unclear. The manufacturers say that the ingredients are safe, but it’s not clear if they are safe to inhale – many substances that are safe to eat can harm delicate tissues inside the lungs.
E-cigarettes are not supposed to be sold for therapeutic purposes (such as quitting smoking) and are not yet regulated by the FDA as of early 2014. Still, information from the FDA suggests that e-cigarettes are not always safe. A 2009 analysis of 18 samples of cartridges from 2 leading e-cigarette brands found cancer-causing substances in half the samples. There were other impurities noted as well. For example, diethylene glycol, a toxic ingredient found in antifreeze, was found in one sample.
Information from the same testing suggests that there may be manufacturing problems with some brands of e-cigarettes. Nicotine levels from each puff varied a great deal, even between cartridges labeled as having the same nicotine amounts. Testing also found small amounts of nicotine in most of the cartridges labeled nicotine-free.
Because the American Cancer Society doesn’t yet know whether e-cigarettes are safe and effective, we cannot recommend them to help people quit smoking. There are proven methods available to help people quit, including pure forms of inhalable nicotine as well as nasal sprays, gums, and patches.
Until electronic cigarettes are scientifically proven to be safe and effective, ACS will support the regulation of e-cigarettes and laws that treat them like all other tobacco products.
At this time it doesn’t look like e-cigarettes work any better than other forms of nicotine to help people quit smoking. Their safety has not yet been proven, and their labels don’t say what’s in them. More information is needed.
Like other forms of nicotine, e-cigarettes and nicotine cartridges can be toxic to children or pets. They can also pose a choking hazard.
Tobacco lozenges and pouches
Lozenges that contain tobacco and small pouches of tobacco that you hold in your mouth are being sold as other ways for smokers to get nicotine in places where smoking is not allowed. The FDA has ruled that these are types of oral tobacco products much like snuff and chew, and are not smoking cessation aids. There’s no evidence that these products can help a person quit smoking. Unlike scientifically proven treatments with known effects, such as nicotine replacement products, anti-depressants, nicotine receptor blockers, or behavioral therapy, these tobacco products have never been tested to see if they can help people quit tobacco.
We know that oral tobacco products such as snuff and chewing tobacco contain human carcinogens. These products cause mouth cancer and gum disease. They also destroy the bone sockets around teeth and can cause teeth to fall out. There are studies showing potential harmful effects on the heart and circulation, as well as increased risks of other cancers. They also cause bad breath and stain the teeth. They are not safe alternatives to cigarettes, nor do they help people quit tobacco.
To learn more about these products, see Smokeless Tobacco.
Nicotine lollipops and lip balms
In the past, some pharmacies made a product called a nicotine lollipop. These lollipops often contained a product called nicotine salicylate, which is not approved by the FDA for pharmacy use. The FDA warned pharmacies to stop selling nicotine lollipops and lip balm on the Internet, calling the products “illegal.” The FDA also said “the candy-like products present a risk of accidental use by children.”
Other smoking cessation products like these that do not use nicotine salicylate may be legal if they are prescribed by a doctor. Because doses vary, you will need to talk with your doctor about how to use them. But they still pose a risk for children and pets if they are not well-labeled, carefully stored, and disposed of safely.
Last Medical Review: 02/06/2014
Last Revised: 02/06/2014