- What do I need to know about quitting?
- Why should I quit?
- When smokers quit — what are the benefits over time?
- Immediate rewards of quitting
- Social acceptance
- Health of others
- Setting an example
- Help with the mental part of addiction
- Help with the physical part of addiction
- What are the types of nicotine replacement therapy?
- Prescription drugs
- Other methods of quitting
- A word about quitting success rates
- How to quit
- Some special concerns
- To learn more
Other methods of quitting
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 find it useful. If you would like to try it, ask your doctor if he or she can recommend a good hypnotherapist.
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 Web site at www.medicalacupuncture.org.
Low-level laser therapy
This technique, also called cold laser therapy, is related to acupuncture. Cold lasers are sometimes 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.
Other nicotine and tobacco products not reviewed or approved by the FDA
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.
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.
The e-cigarette has no published clinical trials that suggest it might work as a way to help smokers quit. No clinical trials have been submitted to the FDA. As of late 2011, the courts determined that the FDA could regulate e-cigarettes like they do other tobacco products, under the Tobacco Control Act. But if e-cigarettes are marketed for therapeutic purposes (such as quitting smoking), they would be regulated as drugs and/or devices.
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.
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.
Like other forms of nicotine, the e-cigarettes and nicotine cartridges can be toxic to children or pets. They can also pose a choking hazard.
Electronic cigarettes are now being used differently from when they were first introduced. Some sellers offer liquids that can be added to e-cigarette systems as a way to take in drugs other than nicotine. For instance, they advertised Cialis® (tadalafil) could be put into inhalation cartridges and “smoked.” Some companies have offered vitamins and an unapproved drug that is supposed to curb cravings and appetite. The FDA has warned at least one US company about this, but new sellers are cropping up in countries with less stringent drug laws.
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: 10/04/2012
Last Revised: 01/17/2013