With no-smoking campaigns becoming more visible in society than tobacco products, prospective quitters may have a hard time figuring out where to start. Patches? E-cigs? Chewing gum? Swinging a rooster over your head at the stroke of midnight?

Fortunately, since it’s in the best interest of countries to help as many citizens as possible kick the habit, public health services have collectively scoured scientific publications for the most reliable quitting methods. According to Michael Fiore, a professor of medicine at the University of Wisconsin School of Medicine, successful cessation efforts tend to have three core components: seeking counsel, talking to your primary care provider, and using medicine.

How do you tackle each step?


As with most problems, your first step should be admitting to yourself and others that you have a problem. Those who try to quit cold turkey without seeking any professional aid whatsoever rarely stay smoke-free for too long. For every 100 smokers who simply throw their pack in the trash and cover their eyes, only three to five will remain non-smokers after 12 months, according to some estimates.

“There are quit lines across America (1-800-QUIT-NOW), which anybody can call and get the government services to help them to quit,” Fiore explained, speaking to Time. “What they’ll do is give you coaching — one-on-one personalized, individualized coaching to help you to quit. And that has been shown to substantially quit rates.”

This step doesn’t have to be difficult. Smokefree.gov, for example, offers toll-free counseling via phone or instant messaging. Expert coaches will help you develop a personalized plan and provide you with the information necessary to drop the habit once and for all. This type of counseling is always confidential.

Talking to Your Doctor

The next step is to tell your doctors about your plans to quit. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, at least 70 percent of smokers visit a doctor’s office each year, providing key opportunities for health care professionals to intervene. Different physicians may use different strategies — however, here’s what researchers recommend they do:

  • Judge the patient’s motivation to quit. Patients who report they are very ready and who feel like they can quit are more likely to do so.
  • Have the patient set a quit date and keep a smoking diary for several days, listing the time, circumstances, and mood when each cigarette was smoked.
  • Identify “risk situations” and discuss alternative behavior for those situations.

Taking Medication

An array of different medications is available to give you that last boost. These come in two types: nicotine replacement therapies (NRTs), which are often available without prescription, and pharmaceutical pills requiring your doctor’s approval.

“NRT reduces withdrawal by giving you a little bit of nicotine, but not any of the other dangerous chemicals found in cigarettes,” National Institutes of Health experts write. “This allows your body to gradually get used to being without nicotine. NRT options include patches, gum, lozenges, an inhaler, and nasal spray. Patches, gum, and lozenges are available without a prescription.”

The agency also recommends two pills: bupropion and varenicline, sold under the brand names Zyban and Chantix. Both may cut your need for tobacco and alleviate withdrawal symptoms. Your primary care provider will help you decide whether either fits into your quit-smoking plan.