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Both reducing cigarettes gradually and quitting abruptly can be successful approaches to quitting smoking. Because there is some limited evidence that quitting abruptly is more effective, abrupt quitting should be encouraged for those who are willing to quit that way.

The traditional way to quit smoking has been to quit abruptly; however there are many smokers who have tried unsuccessfully to quit that way or feel that they would rather reduce their smoking first. A Cochrane review found neither approach results in superior quit rates; however a subsequent, large RCT in which both studies used NRT before quit day has found evidence that abrupt quitting is significantly more effective. Nevertheless, the quit rates in the smoking reduction group were still respectable and much higher than would be seen if smokers quit without support. Therefore, abrupt quitting should be encouraged for smokers who are willing to quit in this way; however reducing to quit should not be discouraged in smokers who otherwise would not make an attempt to quit at all. Evidence on the efficacy of different behavioural reduction methods is not sufficient to recommend one particular method over another.

Lindson-Hawley N, Aveyard P, Hughes JR. Reduction versus abrupt cessation in smokers who want to quit. Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews 2012; 11. Art. No.: CD008033. DOI: 10.1002/14651858.CD008033.pub3.

Lindson-Hawley N, Banting M, West R, Michie S, Shinkins B, Aveyard P. Gradual Versus Abrupt Smoking Cessation: A Randomized, Controlled Noninferiority Trial. Annals of Internal Medicine 2016; 164: 585-592. logo
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