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Ask the Experts


What is smoking cessation?

Answered by: Lirio Covey

The term smoking cessation refers to smokers’ behavior of stopping their regular practice of smoking tobacco, most frequently, cigarettes; in some cases, cigars, or pipe tobacco.

Considerable adverse health consequences are associated with tobacco use, and smoking cessation is one of the most important steps a smoker can take to improve his/her health. Regular tobacco use can produce physiological and psychological dependence on nicotine, the main pharmacological ingredient in tobacco, and this dependence makes it difficult for some smokers to stop even if they wish to. While some smokers who wish to stop smoking can succeed on their first try, others will need to make several attempts and also use a treatment aid.

There are several proven aids for smoking cessation, including the nicotine replacement products (nicotine patch, nicotine gum, nicotine inhaler, nicotine lozenge, and nicotine nasal spray), and two non-nicotine medications, bupropion (Zyban) and varenicline (Chantix) that are now commercially available. The nicotine patch, the nicotine gum, and the nicotine lozenge, can be obtained without a physician’s prescription.

Each of these cessation aids has been demonstrated in placebo-controlled clinical trials to increase the quit rate when the smoker uses the product correctly for the treatment period indicated, usually six to 12 weeks. Research has also shown that cessation rates improve when some level of clinical support accompanies the use of the medications.

Advise and support from the smoker’s physician or nurse, and use of support programs made available by the manufacturer of the drug are examples of helpful clinical support.