There are many methods to quit smoking. Some people like to quit cold turkey (i.e., all of a sudden) while others like to gradually reduce their smoking. Either method can work. Select the method you are most comfortable with. For more information on quitting gradually, see our section about cutting down the amount you smoke.
Some people prefer to quit on their own. There is a wide variety of materials and resources to help you including self-help books and pamphlets, videos, audio tapes, web sites (like this one), computer programs, and telephone recordings. In general, although self-help methods can be helpful, they are less likely to work than those that involve even brief contact with a counsellor, facilitator or health care professional. Self-help programs and services are especially well suited for people with low levels of nicotine addiction, those with moderate to high levels of social support, and people who do not have any serious illnesses that might be affected by smoking.
Individuals who don't want to quit on their own also have many choices available to them. Brief counselling by a doctor, dentist, pharmacist or nurse has been shown to be helpful. Some areas of the country also have set up telephone Quitlines. Telephone services may offer a variety of services including the chance to order materials, get information on local programs and services, chat briefly with a trained counsellor about how to quit smoking, chat extensively with a specially trained counsellor. Some telephone services can even arrange for you to receive a series of calls prior to and after your quit attempt. In general, telephone helplines are effective. The more services they offer and the more intensive the service, the more likely they are to help callers.
In some areas of the country, smokers have access to special smoking cessation or addiction clinics. These facilities usually have one or more highly trained specialists. They can be particularly helpful for highly addicted smokers, smokers who have tried several times to quit without success, and/or smokers who are also trying to deal with other complex medical or addiction problems.
Another approach to smoking cessation is the group program. It usually consists of between 4 and 12 people who are all trying to quit smoking. Some programs are led by a specially trained facilitator/counsellor. Other programs, called mutual aid groups, provide an opportunity for smokers to help each other without a formal counsellor. Research shows that, in general, group programs are among the most successful types of services to help people quit smoking. However, not all people feel comfortable in group situations.
A variety of medications are used to help people quit smoking. However, in Canada only three types are widely available: nicotine chewing pieces, nicotine patches and bupropion (a pill originally developed to treat depression). Special medical clinics occasionally prescribe other specialized medicines such as clonodine and nortriptyline. Research suggests that, when used as directed and when combined with other behaviour programs (e.g., self-help, brief counselling, etc.), these medications dramatically increase the odds that a person will quit smoking. Nicotine chewing pieces and nicotine patches are available without a prescription and can be purchased from most drugstores in Canada. You start using them on your designated quit day. Bupropion requires a doctor's prescription and must be taken for one to two weeks prior to your quit date. Not all people should take medications. If you have questions, ask your pharmacist or doctor. See medications for quitting to get more information.
When selecting a program or service to help you quit smoking, consider these things:
Don't be discouraged if you've tried one or more of these methods and they didn't work for you. People learn something each time they try to quit smoking. Therefore, something that didn't work in the past may work now because you will approach it differently.