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Should I Quit Smoking Cold Turkey?

By Henry Gaudet
Updated May 17, 2024
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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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Discussion Comments
By summing — On Feb 18, 2012

I think the best tip for quitting smoking cold turkey is to plan before you do it. It's fine to quit without any nicotine supplements, but have a plan in place so that you improve your chances for success.

For the first week you quit try to keep active. Clean your car, get rid of old clothes, go hiking, anything to keep your mind and body occupied. Also, try to avoid smoking triggers. If there are people or places that make you want to smoke, stay away for a week or two. Finally, prepare yourself mentally, convince yourself that quitting is exactly what you want to do. It's a lot easier if you don't quit impulsively.

By jonrss — On Feb 17, 2012

I had wanted to quit for many years and had looked at what seemed like dozens of guides for how to quit smoking. But the one that finally got me to quit was a simple piece of advice a friend of a friend gave me.

He told me that quitting smoking is not hard, because if you want to quit, then quitting is the completion of your goal. People think that quitting will be hard because they don't realize what quitting really means, you are not doing something that you no longer want to do. If you go into it thinking that it will be a positive experience rather than some chemical roller coaster it is a lot easier. I used this method and I was able to quit smoking for good.

By gravois — On Feb 17, 2012

There are lots of good smoking cessation aids, but I think the best way is to quit cold turkey. You want to quit, you want to not smoke, so just do it.

Sure it's going to be tough at first, really tough trust me. But you will be over the hump sooner than you realize and then you can begin your life again smoke free. If you want to quit this is the fastest way to do it.

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