How to Gradually Quit Smoking - Tips & timeline to help you quit for good

The Best Way to Quit Smoking Gradually on a Schedule

Smoking is a habit that introduces a range of negative impacts into not only the lives of smokers, but also those around them. We learn this either from the adverse effects advertised on the products we buy, educational material spread throughout popular media channels, or perhaps even experiencing the more terrifying side effects up close and personal. Unfortunately, with prolonged use, many smokers find it difficult to remove cigarettes from everyday routines. The body becomes expectant and dependent on its periodic dosage of nicotine, making it highly addictive, and leaving those looking for tips and the best way to quit smoking with an unpleasant struggle on their hands. 

Failing to quit, however, places you at far greater risk of serious health issues. Over 24,000 Australians lose their lives every year due to conditions related to or caused by smoking, contributing to the wider seven million deaths worldwide. Most will be familiar with effects such as developing cancer throughout the body, in the lungs, throat, stomach, kidney, and bladder, as well as respiratory conditions that can restrict airflow and lead to chronic obstructive pulmonary disease. What you may also learn is that it can also affect other areas of your life, such as creating fertility problems with reduced sperm quality and the ability to fall pregnant, alongside a greater susceptibility to infections with a weakened immune system. 

Other indirect side-effects which have an equally negative impact, are increasing the risk of the friends and family that live with you developing a smoking-related condition by 25% – 30%. What’s worse is that you must consider how smoking affects non-smokers who consistently share spaces – both emotionally and physically. As you emit cigarette smoke into your surroundings, it actually hangs mid-air, exactly in line with where people breathe, meaning a stream of ‘passive smoking’ can be inhaled. With the above statistics in mind, for every eight Australian smokers who die directly from smoking cigarettes, one non-smoker will also suffer and lose their life from inhaling second-hand smoke.  

So, whether it is to avoid the devastating impacts smoking can have on our health, or even to save potentially thousands of dollars each and every year, the best way to quit smoking is to build your efforts upon a unique motivation to break through the cravings and get to the other side. Pair this with a winning strategy that provides structure and support during the quitting process, and you will have an excellent chance for success. 

One of these strategies is to quit smoking gradually on a clear schedule by cutting down the number of cigarettes you consume. This adjusts your body to the reduced amount of nicotine and minimises withdrawal effects.

How Long Does it Take to Quit Smoking Gradually?

Quitting smoking isn’t an easy thing to do. Countless smokers will try each year, but due to the addictive hold it has on the body, only 6% will actually be successful in their efforts to kick the habit for good. This is largely because people do not consider the most appropriate strategy suited to their habits, that can best assist them. Choosing the correct strategy, whether it be cutting down, stopping cold turkey, or using the various alternatives available, can lead to quitting successfully. Quitting ‘cold turkey’, for example, which is the abrupt cessation of smoking altogether, can work wonders for some; but for others, the withdrawals are too much to handle. An alternative that may be more beneficial is to quit smoking gradually on a schedule to reduce your intake over a continued period until you make it to zero as well as remaining at zero.

How long does it take to quit smoking gradually? Well, the premise is relatively straightforward, as you set yourself a goal to decrease the number of cigarettes you consume on a daily or weekly basis. Do this consistently to minimise the amount of nicotine received by the body,  as well as managing or mitigating the intensity of withdrawal symptoms over a longer period, rather than simply cutting straight to zero. For example, one method is to set six weeks as a time frame to reach zero. You can then estimate how many cigarettes you typically smoke within a day or week, and calculate how you can systematically reduce that number until you hit zero at the six-week date. Having a set date is crucial. Without this commitment, you can find yourself wavering in your steady reduction, which could lead to losing your conviction and dropping the attempt to quit altogether. Another tip is to consider adding supportive smoking cessation alternatives to help you manage this change in lifestyle. Nicotine Replacement Therapy (NRT), for example, is a common avenue taken by many smokers looking to quit, as they work to momentarily replace the nicotine their body is craving without having to smoke, aiding to manage withdrawal symptoms. NRTs can take the form of gums, nasal sprays, transdermal patches, lozenges and tablets, and even vapes. Studies actually suggest that NRTs can increase the rate of quitting by up to 50-60%.  These studies were conducted in a myriad of settings with many different smokers, and still, NRTs were shown to improve their odds of quitting smoking by 1.5 to 2 fold, regardless of their situation. There are, of course, other methods if NRT isn’t for you, such as identifying when you need to smoke most (like after a meal or in a social setting) and create corrective habits that take you out of temptation. Simply going for a walk or having a snack can keep you occupied. So, to answer the question, it really depends on what you’re comfortable with and to set that end date to reinforce that commitment to your journey.

Challenges with Cutting Down

If you are starting on your journey, it is important to be aware of the challenges you will likely experience when cutting down your cigarette consumption and nicotine intake. In fact, gradually quitting can actually prove counterproductive for many people. There is an added time commitment and discipline required, in comparison to just quitting cold turkey, as you still have the availability to smoke (i.e. consuming the next day’s portion early). Numerous studies suggest quitting cold turkey removes this temptation and leads to greater success over gradual cessation, sometimes even when aided by NRTs

One thing all journeys have in common is that you should not attempt to manage the struggle on your own. Center back on your motivations and take comfort in the people around you. If you need any further assistance, there are also a range of practicing professionals who specialize in helping people through these difficult transitions for the better.

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