Most smoking cessation guidelines advise quitting abruptly. However, many quit attempts involve gradual cessation. If gradual cessation is as successful, smokers can be advised to quit either way.
To examine the success of quitting smoking by gradual compared with abrupt quitting.
Randomized, controlled noninferiority trial. (International Standardized Randomized Controlled Trial Number Register: ISRCTN22526020).
Primary care clinics in England.
697 adult smokers with tobacco addiction.
Participants quit smoking abruptly or reduced smoking gradually by 75% in the 2 weeks before quitting. Both groups received behavioral support from nurses and used nicotine replacement before and after quit day.
The primary outcome measure was prolonged validated abstinence from smoking 4 weeks after quit day. The secondary outcome was prolonged, validated, 6-month abstinence.
At 4 weeks, 39.2% (95% CI, 34.0% to 44.4%) of the participants in the gradual-cessation group were abstinent compared with 49.0% (CI, 43.8% to 54.2%) in the abrupt-cessation group (relative risk, 0.80 [CI, 0.66 to 0.93]). At 6 months, 15.5% (CI, 12.0% to 19.7%) of the participants in the gradual-cessation group were abstinent compared with 22.0% (CI, 18.0% to 26.6%) in the abrupt-cessation group (relative risk, 0.71 [CI, 0.46 to 0.91]). Participants who preferred gradual cessation were significantly less likely to be abstinent at 4 weeks than those who preferred abrupt cessation (38.3% vs 52.2%; P = 0.007).
Blinding was impossible. Most participants were white.
Quitting smoking abruptly is more likely to lead to lasting abstinence than cutting down first, even for smokers who initially prefer to quit by gradual reduction.
Primary Funding Source:
British Heart Foundation.