Should I Quit Smoking Cold Turkey?

Like many smokers, you might try to quit smoking cold turkey — which means simply stopping smoking altogether on your own — but only about 10 percent of those who try this method actually succeed. Impulsively quitting without planning or preparation is partially responsible for this low success rate. Quitting cold turkey has its advantages, so you might give it a try, but cold turkey is generally considered the most difficult method of giving up cigarettes, and you might find that other methods improve your chance of success.

It is possible for you to quit smoking cold turkey, and there are some good reasons to choose this method over others, most notably price and simplicity. The cost of cigarettes might be one reason you decide to quit, and that savings can be a strong motivator. Spending money on therapy or nicotine patches might feel counterproductive. When you quit smoking cold turkey, you don’t have to practice special resistance techniques, keep appointments or remember when you last put on a patch. Stopping cold turkey relies on nothing other than the will and desire to quit, making it the most straightforward method of quitting.

Although quitting cold turkey means giving up cigarettes completely, with no tapering off and no aids such as nicotine replacement or therapy, you do not have to impulsively stop the moment you decide to quit smoking cold turkey though, and a little preparation can dramatically improve your chances of success. Choose a date to quit — one that is close but not immediate — and mark it on the calendar. Use the time before that date to prepare by getting rid of lighters, ashtrays and other reminders that might tempt you later. Tell your friends and family about your plans and ask for their support.

You will experience withdrawal symptoms when you quit smoking cold turkey, but there are steps you can take to make it easier to deal with them. Exercise, even gentle activity such as walking, not only improves your fitness but provides a distraction. Keep your mouth busy with chewing gum, lollipops or carrot sticks, and if you need something to hold, keep a pen or pencil handy.

Your smoking habit probably included rituals — associations with certain activities and times of the day. You might associate cigarettes with relaxing with a cup of coffee or a beer, or you might feel a stronger urge to smoke in certain places. By being aware of these connections and breaking old routines and staying away from powerful temptations, you give yourself a better chance of staying off cigarettes.

Despite your best efforts, you might find it too difficult to quit smoking cold turkey. Your instinct will be to surrender and go buy a pack of cigarettes. Rather than give up, though, you can build on the progress you have already made by using other techniques, such as nicotine replacement.

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