There are many ways to quit smoking, and it is important to find the method that works best for you. Some people prefer to quit smoking all of a sudden (also known as quitting "cold turkey"); others find they are more comfortable gradually reducing how much they smoke. Some may say they were able to quit all on their own, without any help, but others give a lot of credit to support groups. Everyone is unique, and everyone has a different method for quitting smoking. Know what your options are when you quit and use the resources available to improve your chances of success.

Self help and individual counselling: People who prefer to quit on their own may benefit from self-help books and pamphlets, videos, stop-smoking websites, online forums, mobile apps, or other resources. While self-help methods can lead to successful quitting, brief counselling with facilitators or health care providers appears to be more helpful. Doctors, pharmacists, dentists, and nurses are all options for people who would like individual counselling before or during their quitting process. You can also try calling a help-line for some advice on quitting smoking.

Specialized counselling: In some communities there are smoking cessation or addiction clinics that offer specialized counselling for people who are interested in quitting smoking. Often these clinics will have highly trained specialists who can offer advice and counselling to smokers. People who have made several unsuccessful attempts to quit smoking and people with a high level of dependence on smoking may be most likely to benefit from these clinics. These clinics may also be helpful for people who are trying to deal with other medical or addiction problems as well as smoking.

Group programs: Research shows that group programs are some of the most successful methods for quitting smoking. These programs usually have class sizes of about 4 to 12 people, each facing similar challenges. These programs may be led by a facilitator or counsellor who specializes in smoking cessation. There are also mutual aid groups, which allow smokers to support each other in a group setting without a formal counsellor.

Medications: There are many medications available that may be helpful when quitting smoking. Here are some examples of smoking cessation medications that are available in Canada:

  • nicotine gum or lozenges
  • nicotine patches
  • nicotine inhalers
  • nicotin mouth sprays
  • bupropion
  • varenicline

It appears that using smoking cessation medications as directed together with behavioural programs, such as counselling or self-help methods, significantly increases a person's chances of quitting smoking. Nicotine gum, lozenges, inhalers, and patches are all available over-the-counter at most drugstores in Canada.

Bupropion and varenicline require a prescription and must be taken 1 or 2 weeks before your quit date. In some provinces, pharmacists can prescribe bupropion and varenicline after assessing their appropriateness for you. Talk to your doctor or pharmacist to see if these medications are right for you.

Alternative therapies: Although it is possible that some people may benefit from alternative therapies, there is not enough research showing that these treatments are effective. Therefore, the following forms of treatment are not currently recommended: hypnosis, acupuncture, laser therapy, acupressure, and electrostimulation.

It is important to be patient with yourself during your quitting process and not to give up if one of these methods doesn't work. Be open to different types of quitting methods and remember that just because one method didn't work in the past, it doesn't mean it won't work in the future.

Written and reviewed by the MediResource Clinical Team