Stopping cigarettes suddenly may be the best way to quit for the long haul, new research from the University of Oxford found.
In the study, smokers who attempted to all at once were 25 percent more likely to be successful at the 4-week mark—and 42 percent more likely to have quit after 6 months—than those who gradually tapered off cigarettes for 2 weeks before quit day.
The reason? People who cut down their number of cigarettes in the previous weeks were less likely to actually attempt to stop smoking once that day arrived, says study author Nicola Lindson-Hawley, Ph.D.
Gradually tapering can be uncomfortable because it sparks cravings. And that may make you believe that going without any cigarettes will be way worse, she says.
The withdrawal, however, was just as bad for the people who weaned themselves off smoking and then quit as it was for those who just went directly to zero cigarettes, the study found.
It’s all about perceptions: Neither way is easier for your body, but stopping all at once puts your mind in the best place to go through with the quit.
Your best move, then, is to pick a date to quit and toss your pack when it arrives, says Lindson-Hawley.
And don’t go at it alone: Using a combination of behavioral counseling and medications like nicotine replacement therapy or varenicline boosts your chances of quitting successfully, she says.
It’s not easy, but the benefits are invaluable. One year after quitting, your risk of heart disease drops to half that of a current smoker. Ten years after you stop smoking, your risk of dying of lung cancer is about half that of someone still smoking, according to the American Cancer Society.