Luck or Strategy?

Blog Post created by dr_hurt on May 28, 2010


Sometimes people wonder if stopping smoking is just luck.  Some people succeed and others do not, and some people believe it's all "mind over matter."  However, if you look at the evidence it appears three things improve the "luck" factor:

  1. Using some form of medication : Nicotine replacement such as patches, etc. and non nicotine medications such as varenicline* (Chantix®) or bupropion ( Zyban® or Wellbutrin®) have been shown repeatedly to help smokers to stop smoking and by decreasing cravings to smoke the medications help increase people's sense of confidence in their ability to become smoke-free. 
  3. A clear behavioral plan to address triggers and urges to smoke: Having a clear, practical way to address urges to smoke is also key.  Spending less time around those who smoke, utilizing behavioral coping skills such as chewing gum, sucking mints and squeezing stress balls can help a person through the urges. 
  5. On-going support from family or friends: Having support from family or friends can make a big difference in staying smoke-free.  This support can be simple positive reinforcing statements or could be asking support people to spend more time with you as you go through the transition of becoming smoke-free.

All of these elements are important factors in one's "luck" for stopping smoking and staying tobacco-free.  Perhaps when we look at stopping smoking this way it looks less like "luck" and more like planned strategies that work!

Dr. Richard D. Hurt is an internationally recognized expert on tobacco dependence. A native of Murray, Kentucky, he joined Mayo Clinic in 1976 and is now a Professor of Medicine at its College of Medicine. In 1988, he founded the Mayo Clinic Nicotine Dependence Center and since then its staff has treated more than 50,000 patients for tobacco dependence. Send your questions directly to Dr. Hurt at AskTheExpert@becomeanex.org

* Food & Drug Administration Warning

The Food & Drug Administration has warned that both bupropion (Zyban) and varenicline (Chantix) have been associated with serious adverse effects, including hostility, agitation, depressed mood, and suicidal thoughts or actions.  The risks that are known to be associated with smoking must be balanced against the small, but real risk of these serious adverse effects.  People who are taking either bupropion or varenicline and experience any serious and unusual changes in mood or behavior or who feel like hurting themselves or someone else should stop taking the medicine and call their healthcare professional right away.  Bupropion, varenicline and nicotine replacement medications are also not recommended for women who are pregnant or breast-feeding without consulting their doctor. Ask your doctor if one of these medications is right for you. As always, read and follow label directions. Also keep in mind that new medications are being developed all the time to help people stop smoking. Ask your doctor if anything new is available.