There are a variety of other methods and tools available to help people quit smoking. Some are age-old methods while others are newer approaches. It’s important that you understand your smoking habits and the level of support you may need when you quit as many of these methods have not proven to be as effective as others. Some are not effective at all. To avoid becoming discouraged, make sure you do your research and choose a method that is suitable for you – one that increases your chances of being successful and achieving a smoke-free life. In addition to nicotine replacement therapy and quit smoking programs, consider these other alternative methods for quitting smoking:
- Gradual withdrawal or Nicotine fading is a process where you either cut back on the level of nicotine by changing to a brand with less nicotine content or you cut back on the number of cigarettes smoked. Nicotine fading is a temporary measure that helps your body adjust to lower levels of nicotine and can help position you for successful quitting. Once you’ve cut down on nicotine levels, the withdrawal symptoms you may experience when you quit can be decreased. The real benefit comes from quitting altogether. As a general rule of thumb:
- Consider unfiltered cigarettes or filtered cigarettes that do not contain the words “light” or “ultra light,” as a high-nicotine brand.
- Assume that filtered cigarettes that contain the word “light” or “mild,” are a medium-nicotine brand.
- Filtered cigarettes that contain the words “ultra light,” can be considered a low-nicotine brand.
- Cold turkey is a method that many people try at least once. Cold turkey means quitting smoking abruptly and without use of medicinal aids. The problem with cold turkey is that it doesn’t include the kinds of mindset and lifestyle changes that come with other methods such as quit smoking programs. In essence, everything remains the same except that smoking is eliminated from the daily routine. Cold turkey has been shown to be far less effective than active approaches like nicotine replacement therapy and behavioral counseling. It is easier to quit this way if you smoke fewer than 10 cigarettes a day.
- Hypnosis works by getting you into a deeply relaxed state where you are open to suggestions that strengthen your resolve to quit and increase your negative feelings toward cigarettes.
- Acupuncture is one of the oldest medical practices. It is believed to work by triggering the release of endorphins (naturally-occurring pain relief substances) that allow the body to relax. As a method to quit smoking, acupuncture can help manage withdrawal symptoms. It has been used for quitting smoking, but there is little evidence to support whether it is effective. For a list of local acupuncturists, contact the American Academy of Medical Acupuncture by visiting http://www.medicalacupuncture.org/.
- Smoking deterrents such as over-the-counter products that change the taste of tobacco, diets that claim to curb nicotine cravings, and combinations of vitamins have little scientific evidence to support their claims.
- Supplements and herbal remedies do not require FDA approval because they are marketed as dietary supplements (as opposed to drugs). There is no proof that they are effective or safe to take. Be sure to look closely at the product label of any product claiming it can help you stop smoking.
- Nicotine lollipops and lip balms, in the past, often contained a product called nicotine salicylate with a sugar sweetener. Nicotine salicylate is not approved for pharmacy use by the FDA. The FDA has warned several pharmacies to stop selling nicotine lollipops and lip balm on the Internet, calling the products "illegal."
- Nicotine water and nicotine wafers have been marketed in recent years as ways to get nicotine when a person is not permitted to smoke.
- Nicotine vaccines for the prevention and treatment of nicotine addiction are currently being developed and tested in clinical trials. NicVAX, for example, works by triggering the body’s immune system to block nicotine from reaching the brain, and if approved, is expected to work for a year following injection.
Prescription Medicines like Bupropion (Zyban®) and Varenicline (Chantix™) are alternatives to NRTs that may help you deal with nicotine withdrawal. Bupropion is a prescription antidepressant in an extended-release form that reduces symptoms of nicotine withdrawal. This drug acts on chemicals in the brain that are related to nicotine craving. Bupropion is FDA approved as an aid in quitting smoking, but it is not clear if it is useful for smokeless tobacco users as well.
Varenicline (Chantix™) is a newer prescription medicine taken as a pill twice a day. It lessens the physical pleasure from taking in nicotine and helps lessen the symptoms of nicotine withdrawal. Studies have shown it to work as least as well as bupropion (if not more so) in helping people quit smoking, at least in the short term. Its effects against smokeless tobacco have not been studied.
Non-tobacco snuff products are made from plants or herbs, and are packaged like moist snuff in a tin and come in different flavors. They are generally considered safe as long as you are not allergic to anything in them, but they are not regulated by the FDA. If you choose to try a non-tobacco snuff, be sure to check the ingredient list to see what you’re getting.
When you quit smoking, your risk of stroke decreases steadily. Former smokers have the same stroke risk as nonsmokers after 5 to 15 years.