Quitting Smoking or Smokeless Tobacco

Quitting tobacco (tobacco cessation) is a lot like losing weight. It takes a strong commitment over a long time.

For people who smoke cigarettes, the quit process is known as smoking cessation. But, in many ways, quitting one tobacco product is a lot like quitting another tobacco product. For example, quitting smokeless tobacco can be a lot like quitting smoking. Both involve tobacco products that contain nicotine, and both involve the physical, mental, and emotional parts of addiction. Many of the ways to handle the mental hurdles of quitting are the same..

It's best to talk with your doctor about the plan that's right for you. Talking to a pharmacist can be very helpful, too. Don't forget to check with your insurance company about coverage for quit programs and quit aids. Read more about the first steps to take in Making a Plan to Quit and Planning Your Quit Day.

Do quit programs really work?

As you plan for your Quit Day and make your quit plan, you may wonder about the cost of quit programs and quit aids, and the success rates of the many different methods available. Success rates are hard to figure out for many reasons. Not all quit programs define success in the same way. Find out what goals the programs you're thinking about might have. For example, you can ask these questions:

  • Does success mean a person isn’t using tobacco at the end of the program? After 3 months? 6 months? 1 year?
  • Does using tobacco less (rather than stopping completely) count as success?
  • What is the program's success rate?
  • What kind of follow-up is done to confirm the success rate?

It’s important to remember that quitting is hard. Quit programs in general seem to have fairly low success rates, but they can still be worthwhile. Some experts have estimated only about 4% to 7% of people are able to quit smoking on any given attempt without medicines or other help. So finding a program that fits your needs can really make a difference.

What about medicines to help me quit?

For people trying to quit cigarettes, sometimes combining both prescription and over-the-counter medicines may work better than using just one. There may also be some benefit to using medicines when you are quitting smokeless tobacco. It's a good idea to talk to your doctor or dentist, and get their advice and support for what might work best for you. Talk to your insurance company about coverage, too.

Can e-cigarettes help me quit tobacco?

E-cigarettes are not currently approved by the FDA as aids to help stop smoking or using smokeless tobacco. This is because there’s just not enough research or evidence yet on e-cigarettes. In contrast, there is a large body of evidence clearly showing that FDA-approved medications are safe and effective ways to help people quit smoking, especially when combined with counseling. Learn more in What Do We Know About E-cigarettes?

What can I do to increase my chances of quitting?

Support is a key part of a quit plan. Along with quit programs, counseling and other types of emotional support can boost success rates higher than medicines alone.

Behavioral and supportive therapies may increase success rates even further. They can also help you stay tobacco-free.

Check the package insert of any product you are using to see if the manufacturer provides free telephone-based counseling. Talk to a health care provider or contact us to find free telephone-based counseling.

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.

American Cancer Society. Cancer prevention and early detection facts & figures, 2019-2020. Available at https://www.cancer.org/content/dam/cancer-org/research/cancer-facts-and-statistics/cancer-prevention-and-early-detection-facts-and-figures/cancer-prevention-and-early-detection-facts-and-figures-2019-2020.pdf. Accessed October 10, 2020.

Boccio M et al. Telephone-based coaching. American Journal of Health Promotion. 2017;31(12):136-142. 

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Quit smoking. Available at https://www.cdc.gov/tobacco/quit_smoking/index.htm. Accessed October 10., 2020. 

Rigotti N. Overview of smoking cessation management in adults. UpToDate. 2020. 

US Department of Health and Human Services. What you need to know about quitting smoking: Advice from the Surgeon General. Available at https://www.hhs.gov/sites/default/files/2020-cessation-sgr-consumer-guide.pdf. Accessed October 10, 2020.

US Preventive Services Task Force. Tobacco smoking cessation in adults, including pregnant women: Behavioral and pharmacotherapy interventions. 2015. Available at https://www.uspreventiveservicestaskforce.org/uspstf/document/RecommendationStatementFinal/tobacco-use-in-adults-and-pregnant-women-counseling-and-interventions. Accessed October 10, 2020.

References

American Cancer Society. Cancer prevention and early detection facts & figures, 2019-2020. Available at https://www.cancer.org/content/dam/cancer-org/research/cancer-facts-and-statistics/cancer-prevention-and-early-detection-facts-and-figures/cancer-prevention-and-early-detection-facts-and-figures-2019-2020.pdf. Accessed October 10, 2020.

Boccio M et al. Telephone-based coaching. American Journal of Health Promotion. 2017;31(12):136-142. 

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Quit smoking. Available at https://www.cdc.gov/tobacco/quit_smoking/index.htm. Accessed October 10., 2020. 

Rigotti N. Overview of smoking cessation management in adults. UpToDate. 2020. 

US Department of Health and Human Services. What you need to know about quitting smoking: Advice from the Surgeon General. Available at https://www.hhs.gov/sites/default/files/2020-cessation-sgr-consumer-guide.pdf. Accessed October 10, 2020.

US Preventive Services Task Force. Tobacco smoking cessation in adults, including pregnant women: Behavioral and pharmacotherapy interventions. 2015. Available at https://www.uspreventiveservicestaskforce.org/uspstf/document/RecommendationStatementFinal/tobacco-use-in-adults-and-pregnant-women-counseling-and-interventions. Accessed October 10, 2020.

Last Revised: October 10, 2020

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