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Alternative Quitting Smoking Methods

Harry Mills, Ph.D.

Low-Tar Cigarettes

Many smokers believe they can reduce their risk of tobacco-related diseases, and perhaps aid their attempts to quit, by switching to low-tar cigarettes. Similarly, some people choose to use lower-nicotine and lower-tar cigarettes in the same way they use nicotine replacement therapy. However, studies have shown that, although these products do contain a smaller amount of nicotine and other harmful substances, people who use these products tend to start smoking more! Instead of smoking as they normally would, people who switch to lower-nicotine or lower-tar cigarettes end up smoking more cigarettes, and smoking them further down, inhaling them deeper and holding the smoke down longer than they normally would. As a result, these smokers inhale just as much tar and nicotine as they would if they were smoking regular cigarettes. In fact, these behaviors can expose the smoker to higher concentrations of dangerous poisons, thus increasing the risk of disease. Overall, switching to lower-tar or lower-nicotine cigarettes is not a useful option if you are attempting to quit smoking.


therapist and patientHypnosis and self-hypnosis combine a deeply relaxed state and the power of suggestion in an effort to improve physical health and encourage changes of attitude. Hypnosis is used as a tool to help break conditioned behaviors and replace them with new behaviors. A 1996 U.S. National Institute of Health panel found hypnosis to be an effective pain relieving option for cancer and other chronic conditions. Hypnosis has also been used as a tool by smokers in their attempt to quit smoking. Success rates among different studies are variable. Nevertheless, hypnosis may be helpful for some people. It is recommended that a smoker interested in hypnotherapy work with a licensed and experienced mental health professional (a social worker, professional counselor, psychologist or psychiatrist) who is also an experienced hypnotherapist, and not simply with someone representing themselves as a 'hypnotherapist'.

Aversive Therapies

Some behavioral treatments attempt to make smoking aversive (extremely unpleasant) to the smoker by overwhelming him or her with all the negative aspects of smoking. The goal is to replace the association between the pleasurable or comforting feelings most people get from smoking with the more repulsive consequences of tobacco use. The most common form of aversion therapy for smoking cessation is rapid smoking, which involves puffing cigarettes every few seconds for several minutes while concentrating on the unpleasant feelings that arise from smoking so quickly. The participant continues the quick puff procedure until they begin to feel nauseated.

Another form of aversion that is sometimes combined with rapid smoking and involves the administration of brief electrical shocks at each step of the smoking process, such as opening the pack of cigarettes, removing a cigarette, moving the cigarette close to the mouth, etc. Another method, using silver acetate, which causes cigarettes to taste bad, has been used in smoking cessation programs for many years. Although some people find these methods to be effective, keep in mind that there is currently no definitive research about the effectiveness of aversion therapy in helping people quit smoking. It is hard to guess whether an aversive approach will work for you.