Ways to Quit Tobacco Without Using Medicines

No one should smoke cigarettes, and every effort should be made to get people to quit all forms of tobacco and to prevent everyone – especially youth – from starting to use any tobacco product. Smokers are strongly advised to use proven cessation methods, such as prescription medications and counseling, to quit smoking. You may hear or read about other tools or methods to quit smoking besides nicotine replacement therapy or prescription drugs and whether they can help people quit smoking.

There is no one right way to quit.

Cold turkey and gradual withdrawal

A lot of people who smoke quit cold turkey – they stop completely, all at once, with no medicines or nicotine replacement. You may hear that more people quit cold turkey than by using assistance. That is true, but it reflects the fact that so many more people use the cold turkey method. In fact, the chances of a successful quit attempt are much higher when someone uses assistance.

Another way is gradual withdrawal – cutting down on the number of cigarettes you smoke a little bit each day. This way, you slowly reduce the amount of nicotine in your body. You might cut out cigarettes smoked with a cup of coffee, or you might decide to smoke only at certain times of the day. It makes sense to cut down before your quit date in order to reduce withdrawal symptoms, but this can be hard to do. It's important to know that merely cutting back (and not quitting) has only minimal health benefits.

Filters

Filters that reduce tar and nicotine in cigarettes do not help people quit smoking, nor do they reduce the health risks from smoking.

Smoking deterrents

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 no scientific evidence that any of these work.

Electronic cigarettes (e-cigarettes)

E-cigarettes and similar devices are not approved by the FDA for use as smoking cessation aids. This is because there’s just not enough research or evidence yet. 

Still, some people who smoke choose to try e-cigarettes to help them stop smoking. Stopping smoking clearly has well-documented health benefits. But people who switch from smoking cigarettes to using e-cigarettes still expose themselves to potentially serious ongoing health risks. It’s important to stop using all tobacco products, including e-cigarettes, as soon as possible both to reduce health risks and to avoid staying addicted to nicotine.

Some people choose to use both cigarettes and e-cigarettes at the same time on an ongoing basis, whether they are trying to quit or not. This is known as “dual use.” The dual use of e-cigarettes and tobacco cigarettes can lead to significant health risks because smoking any amount of regular cigarettes is very harmful. People should not use both products at the same time and are strongly encouraged to completely stop using all tobacco products. 

To learn more, see the American Cancer Society Position Statement on Electronic Cigarettes.

Tobacco lozenges and pouches

The FDA has ruled that lozenges, strips, and sticks that contain tobacco and small pouches of tobacco that you hold in your mouth 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. And we know that oral tobacco products like snuff and chewing tobacco cause cancer. However, in Sweden, the widespread use of oral snus (a type of moist snuff) has helped to drive down smoking rates to 3%, and the health complications of using snus are much less than those from smoking.

Other forms of nicotine not approved by the FDA

Nicotine has been added to drinks, lollipops, straws, and lip balms which are marketed as quit tools. None of these are approved by the FDA, and, in fact, some are illegal in the US. None have been shown to help people quit smoking. They also pose a risk for children and pets if they are not well-labeled, carefully stored, and disposed of safely.

Hypnosis

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 found that it’s a quitting method that works. Still, some people say that it helps. If you’d like to try it, ask your health care provider to recommend a good licensed therapist who does hypnotherapy.

Acupuncture

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.

Magnet therapy

Magnet therapy to quit smoking involves 2 small magnets that are put in a certain spot, 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 helps people stop smoking. 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.

Cold laser therapy

This is also called low level laser therapy, and is related to acupuncture. In this method, cold lasers are used instead of needles for acupuncture. Despite claims of success by some cold laser therapy providers, there’s no scientific evidence that shows this helps people stop smoking.

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 include combinations of herbs, but not nicotine. They have no proven track record of helping people to stop smoking.

Mind-body practices

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 did show lower craving and less smoking. More research is needed, and studies of these practices are still going on. Cognitive processing methods (cognitive-behavioral approaches) are also being studied.

The American Cancer Society medical and editorial content team

Our team is made up of doctors and oncology certified nurses with deep knowledge of cancer care as well as journalists, editors, and translators with extensive experience in medical writing.

Barnes J, McRobbie H, Dong CY,  Walker N, Hartmann-Boyce J.. Hypnotherapy for smoking cessation. Cochrane Database Syst Rev. 2019;6(6):CD001008.

Carim-Todd L, Mitchell SH, Oken BS. Mind-body practices: an alternative, drug-free treatment for smoking cessation? A systematic review of the literature. Drug Alcohol Depend. 2013;132(3):399-410.

Drope J, Cahn, Z, Kennedy R, et al.  Key issues surrounding the health impacts of electronic nicotine delivery systems (ENDS) and other sources of nicotine. CA Cancer J Clin.  2017;67:449-471.

Kalkhoran S, Glantz SA. E-cigarettes and smoking cessation in real-world and clinical settings: A systematic review and meta-analysis. Lancet Respir Met. 2016;4(2):116-128.

Lindson N, Klemperer E, Hong B, Ordonez-Mena JM, Aveyard P. Smoking reduction interventions for smoking cessation. Cochrane Database Syst Rev. 2019;9(9):CD013183.

McLean L, Cornett NA. Nondrug treatments for smoking cessation. JAAPA. 2017;30(10):1.

McRobbie H, Bullen C, Hartmann-Boyce J, Hajek P. Electronic cigarettes for smoking cessation and reduction. Cochrane Database Syst Rev. 2014;12:CD010216.

National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. Public health consequences of  e-cigarettes. 2018. Accessed at https://www.nap.edu/catalog/24952/public-health-consequences-of-e-cigarettes on October 10, 2020.

White AR, Rampes H, Liu JP, Stead LF, Campbell J. Acupuncture and related interventions for smoking cessation. Cochrane Database Syst Rev. 2014 Jan 23;1:CD000009.

References

Barnes J, McRobbie H, Dong CY,  Walker N, Hartmann-Boyce J.. Hypnotherapy for smoking cessation. Cochrane Database Syst Rev. 2019;6(6):CD001008.

Carim-Todd L, Mitchell SH, Oken BS. Mind-body practices: an alternative, drug-free treatment for smoking cessation? A systematic review of the literature. Drug Alcohol Depend. 2013;132(3):399-410.

Drope J, Cahn, Z, Kennedy R, et al.  Key issues surrounding the health impacts of electronic nicotine delivery systems (ENDS) and other sources of nicotine. CA Cancer J Clin.  2017;67:449-471.

Kalkhoran S, Glantz SA. E-cigarettes and smoking cessation in real-world and clinical settings: A systematic review and meta-analysis. Lancet Respir Met. 2016;4(2):116-128.

Lindson N, Klemperer E, Hong B, Ordonez-Mena JM, Aveyard P. Smoking reduction interventions for smoking cessation. Cochrane Database Syst Rev. 2019;9(9):CD013183.

McLean L, Cornett NA. Nondrug treatments for smoking cessation. JAAPA. 2017;30(10):1.

McRobbie H, Bullen C, Hartmann-Boyce J, Hajek P. Electronic cigarettes for smoking cessation and reduction. Cochrane Database Syst Rev. 2014;12:CD010216.

National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. Public health consequences of  e-cigarettes. 2018. Accessed at https://www.nap.edu/catalog/24952/public-health-consequences-of-e-cigarettes on October 10, 2020.

White AR, Rampes H, Liu JP, Stead LF, Campbell J. Acupuncture and related interventions for smoking cessation. Cochrane Database Syst Rev. 2014 Jan 23;1:CD000009.

Last Revised: October 10, 2020

American Cancer Society medical information is copyrighted material. For reprint requests, please see our Content Usage Policy.