The 6 Best Ways to Quit Smoking

Curb your habit

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If you're looking to quit smoking, there are many options to help support you in your journey, from in-person support groups to text-based messaging apps. There are also a handful of ways to help get you started on your smoke-free journey, such as telephone coaches and quick start guides.

Many resources are offered for free through government initiatives under the direction of the American Cancer Society. But whether you are a long-time smoker looking for personalized support or a casual one wanting to use an app to quit for good, you'll likely find something to suit your needs. We've rounded up the best ways to quit smoking, so you can curb your habit.

The 6 Best Ways to Quit Smoking

Best Overall: Cognitive Behavioral Quitting (CBQ) Method

CBQ Method

CBQ Method

The Cognitive Behavioral Quitting (CBQ) Method, created by Nasia Davos, was designed to help smokers stop smoking by removing the desire for cigarettes.

The method helps smokers overcome their mental dependence on nicotine by changing how they view smoking. Furthermore, it draws on neuro-linguistic programming (NLP), cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT), neuroscience, and coaching. The goal of this method is to deal with mental dependence rather than relying on overcoming the physical addiction alone.

This is done in four stages. First, you'll need to choose to quit. The next step is to remove the fears that are stopping you from becoming a non-smoker. Then, you'll need to break your smoking habit by rewiring your smoking triggers. And, finally, you'll need to condition your new, smoke-free life so you can become a happy non-smoker life.

There are a variety of specialized plans, but the main CBQ Method is an online, 10-day program that follows the four steps and costs about $597.

Best for Getting Started: QuitStart App

QuitStart App logo

CDC

The QuitStart App is designed to help you get started with managing nicotine addiction and quitting smoking.

The app includes a variety of features such as information and tips on how to prepare to quit smoking, a place to monitor your progress, the ability to earn badges to celebrate milestones in your journey, help getting back on track if you slip up and smoke, and tips to help manage cravings and deal with down moods.

Additionally, the app features helpful distractions like challenges and games, the ability to create a stop smoking toolkit with inspiration and tips to keep you going, and a way to share your progress on social media.

Like the QuitNow Quitline, the QuitStart App is a government initiative directed by the Tobacco Control Research Branch of the National Cancer Institute in collaboration with the U.S. Food and Drug Administration. The development of the app was informed from input by tobacco control professionals, ex-smokers, as well as smoking cessation experts.

The app is available as a free download.

Best for Text-Based Support: SmokefreeTXT Text Message Service

SmokefreeTXT logo

SmokefreeTXT

SmokefreeTXT is a text messaging service designed to help adults in the United States quit smoking. The service includes six to eight weeks of daily text messages (three to five messages per day).

Texts range from motivational to daily challenges, and on-demand messaging is also available. After finishing the program, users will receive follow-up messages in one, three, and six months. Users must have a U.S.-based mobile phone and, ideally, unlimited text messaging (so that per-message rates are not applied).

Sample messages from the program include tips like, "Cravings can be triggered by seeing other people smoking. Spend time in places where smoking isn't allowed. Try malls, museums, or the movies." Or, they can be daily challenges like, "Day 6- Delay your 1st cig (or the next one) by an hour today. Make a plan and stick to it. Every time you put out a cig is a chance to try quitting again."

Users can request on-demand messages to help manage cravings, moods, or slip-ups by texting one-word keywords (i.e. CRAVE, MOOD, SLIP) to the SmokefreeTXT number (47848). This does not sign you up for the weekly program; rather, you receive one message to help you in the moment.

Specific programs are also available for teens, moms, veterans, etc. There is no fee for the service. You can sign up by texting QUIT to 47848.

Best for Group Support: Nicotine Anonymous

Nicotine Anonymous Logo

Nicotine Anonymous

Nicotine Anonymous (NicA) is a nonprofit network of support groups to overcome nicotine addiction that is based on the 12-step model used in Alcoholics Anonymous (AA). The program involves group support and recovery for those looking to maintain abstinence from nicotine.

Members of NicA can be following any type of program to quit smoking and end nicotine addiction. For example, some people might be completing a smoking cessation program, while others could be using nicotine withdrawal aids.

The strength of the 12-step program is the group support model for those wanting a nicotine-free life. Just as with AA, the basis of the network of groups is that the individual should surrender their addiction to a higher power. In addition, the 12 steps involve other social-based activities designed to strengthen one's resolve to quit smoking, abstain from nicotine, and reduce dependence.

NicA offers help and support for free to all individuals looking to abstain from nicotine. And while meetings are free, members who are able are encouraged to donate to both Nicotine Anonymous World Services as well as their local chapter.

Best for Coaching: QuitNow Quitline

Quit Now Quiline Logo

CDC

The QuitNow Quitline offers free telephone coaching with a trained coach to help you develop a plan to quit smoking. The service is available throughout the United States and in several languages.

Quit coaches are trained to help you stop smoking by making a plan that is tailored to your individual situation. Many of them are former smokers and are trained to be empathetic listeners, provide encouragement, and give helpful tips.

When you call the QuitNow Quitline, your coach will ask about what type of help you are interested in obtaining. You will also be questioned about your past experiences with trying to quit smoking. These questions are designed to identify the best program and approach for you.

Quitlines can be seen as an add-on to whatever support your receive from your doctor. They can help connect you with community resources or determine how your health insurance might cover stop smoking aids like medication. In many ways, QuitNow functions like a stop-smoking coach to help you make a plan to deal with cravings, figure out what program is best for you, and put together a plan to quit.

If you'd like to use the Quitline, you can call 1-800-QUIT-NOW. The program is free to access.

Best for Tracking and Journaling: QuitGuide App

Quit Guide App Logo

CDC

The QuitGuide App, also a government-funded initiative, is available in the United States for those wishing to track their cravings, triggers, and progress during their smoke-free journey.

The QuitGuide app helps you to do the following: understand your craving patterns by time of day and location, understand your cravings by mood and other triggers, build skills to manage your cravings, and receive motivational and inspirational messages to deal with cravings.

Additionally, you'll be able to identify your own personal reasons for quitting, monitor your progress during your journey to stop smoking, and keep a journal or log to record your process.

This app is available as a free download.

FAQs

What Are the Most Effective Ways to Quit Smoking?

The most effective way to quit smoking is to have one-on-one or group support within whatever program you choose. Longer programs tend to have better success as well. When looking for ways to quit, consider whether the program is at least two weeks in length and includes at least four sessions that last 30 minutes or more. For self-help based products, the most effective methods will offer daily support over a long period of time.

How Long Does It Take to Quit Smoking?

When you stop smoking, you will experience withdrawal symptoms, such as cravings, feeling irritable or sad, and having trouble sleeping. These symptoms usually last a few days or weeks. Beyond withdrawal, a good stop smoking program will last several weeks. However, it may take months or years to fully combat your smoking addiction.

Is It Better to Cut Down on Smoking Before Quitting?

There is evidence that says cutting down on smoking before quitting leads to similar long-term outcomes as quitting cold turkey . This suggests that you should choose the method that feels best for your situation.

How We Chose the Best Ways to Quit Smoking

The best ways to quit smoking were chosen based on a variety of factors, including research evidence for the service, the availability of coaching or group support, as well as accessibility. A variety of programs and services were selected to showcase that quitting smoking can look different for each person.

For example, if you are looking for an in-person support group similar to AA, then Nicotine Anonymous is your best option. If you want text-based daily messages, then SmokefreeTXT is the way to go. If you prefer having someone hold you accountable, such as a coach, the QuitNow Quitline offers free telephone coaching to help you with your plan to quit smoking.

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Article Sources
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  1. Lindson N, Klemperer E, Hong B, Ordóñez-Mena JM, Aveyard P. Smoking reduction interventions for smoking cessationCochrane Database Syst Rev. 2019;9(9):CD013183.

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