Smoking Cessation: What Works?

Fewer North Americans are smoking than ever before, and quit rates have skyrocketed since governments became involved with smoking cessation efforts. Smoking rates in Canada dropped  to 19.9 percent in 2011 from a much higher rate of 25.9 percent in 2001. In the United States, similar rates were seen; rates dropped from 28.5 percent in 2001 to 18.5 percent in 2011. As researchers learn more about smoking cessation, newer and better methods to assist the process are revealed. Today, many different smoking cessation aids exist on the market, each of which may or may not be appropriate for any one person. While no single solution is right for everyone, these five aids have helped many people to quit smoking for good. As AprilAge software is often used by Health Professionals to demonstrate the long term effects of smoking to their clients, we thought we'd review 5 methods of smoking cessation. Psychotherapy One of the most popular smoking cessation aids, psychotherapy can be used to help patients break habits. Often, the most difficult aspect of quitting smoking has more to do with the inherent cycle that occurs within smoking; patients smoke, eventually enter withdrawal and experience symptoms like anxiety and irritability, and then smoke again to be rid of these feelings. A psychotherapist will use a variety of approaches to help smokers deal with these feelings and the eventual cravings that come along with them. DBT DBT, or Dialectical Behavioral Therapy, has shown promise within the realm of smoking cessation. This form of therapy focuses on four main points:

  • Mindfulness
  • Interpersonal Effectiveness
  • Distress Tolerance
  • Emotion Regulation

When used to assist with smoking cessation, mindfulness, distress tolerance, and emotion regulation can all provide the smoker with ways to cope with intense feelings. While interpersonal effectiveness is less applicable to the process, it is still helpful as it can teach the smoker to discuss their feelings and emotions more openly and honestly. The hope is that instead of reaching for another cigarette, the smoker will instead employ new coping methods to wait the craving out. CBT CBT, or Cognitive Behavioral Therapy, is a second therapy style that has also shown an ability to assist with smoking cessation. Much as with DBT, it is vital to have a qualified psychotherapist guiding the sessions to ensure best results. Based on the Cognitive Model of Emotional Response, it focuses on teaching smokers to deal with reactions even when situations do not change. It is typically limited to a number of sessions in which the therapist and the client can work together to help the client reach goals; this is what makes it so appropriate for smoking cessation. Nicotine Replacement Therapies While nicotine replacement still provides the smoker with a dose of the addictive substance itself, it removes many of the secondary harmful chemicals and effects gained through smoking. This form of smoking cessation aid is one of the most studied and beneficial available to date. Nicotine replacement therapies come in a variety of different styles:

  • Chewing gum
  • Nicotine inhalers
  • E-cigarettes
  • Mouth spray
  • Skin patches
  • Lozenges

Nicotine inhalers and e-cigarettes can be a good choice for those who struggle with breaking habits related to the motions associated with smoking. E-cigarettes also come in nicotine-containing and nicotine-free options; nicotine-containing options also come in a variety of strengths. This can help the smoker to step down slowly with less withdrawal symptoms. Mouth sprays, lozenges, and chewing gum can be effective for people who are particularly fixated on the oral aspect of smoking. By keeping the mouth busy, and supplementing a small dose of nicotine, most smokers will find that they are able to get through cravings more easily. Using dose ranges to step down can help to reduce anxiety and withdrawal symptoms. Chantix While it certainly isn't right for everyone, Chantix (Varenicline) can assist some with smoking-related cravings and urges. This medication is a nicotinic receptor 'partial agonist' – meaning that it feeds nicotinic receptors in the brain much in the same way that actual nicotine would. However, Chantix does so at a greatly reduced level.  It also has a secondary effect; it reduces the pleasure associated with smoking and thus lowers the incentive to smoke in the first place. This has shown the ability to control cravings, anxiety, and irritability without continuing the nicotine addiction itself. Zyban Also a prescription medication, known by its generic name Wellbutrin, Zyban has been shown to lower cravings and reduce the desire to smoke. It is an antidepressant selective norepinephrine reuptake inhibitor that has been studied as a smoking cessation aid. A study in 2008 proved it effective in treating nicotine addiction, and judged it both a cost-effective and safe choice when used as a second line therapy after nicotine replacement. While the study didn't show that Zyban was more effective than replacement, a second study did point out that the drug can be used in combination with other therapies. This ability to add the drug on makes it an excellent choice for those who require a multi-faceted approach to smoking cessation. Hypnosis While hypnosis comes in line only after all of the above therapies, it is a useful adjunct to a quit smoking plan for some. Hypnosis works by planting suggestions into the mind of the smoker; when it works, these suggestions reduce the desire to smoke and make it seem unpalatable. It is best when combined with NRT, although some people choose to use it alone, too. Several studies have shown that hypnosis does seem to be an effective treatment. Most hypnosis sessions focus on three concepts:

  • Smoking is bad for the body
  • The body is required to live
  • The body should be respected

Other studies have placed the quit rate at nearly 50 percent after 11 months; this is certainly an achievement and makes it worth investigating or adding to a current quit plan. Here at AprilAge we are happy to be part of the scientific quest to help people stop smoking and our own software was proven to assist young people in their goal to quit.  Viewing what they will look like in 10 years or more if they continue to smoke proves to be a valuable motivator in giving up.