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Ways to Stop Smoking Cigarettes: Stopping Smoking at Once or Step by Step

Abstract: Only a few smokers manage to smoke less each time and maintain this long enough to finally quit smoking at all.

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Ways to Stop Smoking Cigarettes: Stopping Smoking at Once or Step by Step

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Written by: Wendy Moelker, Psychologist in charge, tutor, Emergis center for mental health care, Goes, the Netherlands.
First version: 22 Jul 2008.
Latest revision: 24 Jul 2008.

Is it better to stop smoking at once or to do it step by step? Which ways to stop smoking cigarettes do you recommend?


Only a few smokers manage stopping smoking less each time and maintain this long enough to finally quit smoking at all. Also by smoking only a few cigarettes a day the body is reminded all the time of the addictive nicotine, and the cigarette remains a hidden persuader. This is especially dangerous at moments when the alertness is weak. Besides, there is a big chance that people think that those few cigarettes don't harm anymore and they stop their attempt to quit smoking. When a smoker knows for sure that he has to say goodbye to his cigarette, it is not wise to stop slowly and it is also extra unpleasant. The smoker teases himself by maintaining the desire to smoke (nicotine). Moreover, he leaves a window of opportunity open to permit another cigarette on occasions that (threaten to) cause extra stress. In addition, the possible withdrawal symptoms last longer when someone tries to stop smoking slowly. Of all ex-smokers, 90% stopped the habit directly, that is without cutting down.

The smokers who try to cut down slowly are, in general, significantly less successful. They fall back more often, they keep on smoking longer, or they don't stop at all, which is the most dangerous. So stopping step by step is definitely not good ways to stop smoking cigarettes.

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