Stop-smoking strategies to kick the cigarette habit

Monday, January 8, 2007 | 12:00 a.m. CST; updated 2:50 a.m. CDT, Thursday, July 17, 2008

Does the ban on smoking have you thinking it might be time to kick the habit? Here’s some information on smoking-cessation methods.


There is no evidence that one type of nicotine-replacement therapy is better than any other. People who smoke heavily are more successful when they use the strongest forms of the product (gum or lozenges with 4 mg of nicotine or patches with 21 mg or more per patch). Think about which method best fits your lifestyle and smoking pattern.

Types of nicotine replacement therapy:

  • Gum: Releases nicotine slowly into the mouth. Available over the counter. Possible side effects include throat irritation, mouth sores, hiccups, nausea, jaw discomfort and racing heartbeat.
  • Lozenges: Release nicotine slowly into the mouth. Available over the counter. Possible side effects include trouble sleeping, nausea, hiccups, coughing, heartburn, headache and flatulence.
  • Nicotine inhalers: Delivers a puff of nicotine vapor into the mouth and throat. It is the closest thing to smoking a cigarette. Available by prescription. Possible side effects include coughing, throat irritation and upset stomach.
  • Patches: Stick to the skin and slowly release nicotine into the bloodstream. Nicotine doses are reduced over the course of several weeks, weaning the tobacco user off nicotine. Available over the counter or by prescription. Possible side effects include skin irritation, dizziness, racing heartbeat, sleep problems or unusual dreams, headache, nausea, vomiting, muscle aches and stiffness.
  • Nasal spray: Delivers nicotine quickly to the bloodstream. Available by prescription. Possible side effects include nasal irritation, runny nose, watery eyes, sneezing, throat irritation and coughing.


  • Bupropion SR pill: Marketed under the brand name Zyban, this non-nicotine pill affects chemicals in the brain related to nicotine cravings. Shown to be effective in smokers with a history of depression. Possible side effects include itching or hives, swelling of the face or hands, swelling or tingling in the mouth or throat, chest tightness, trouble breathing, fast, slow or uneven heartbeat, muscle or joint pain, unexplained fever with rash, severe agitation or confusion, severe or continuing headache or ringing in the ears.
  • Varenicline: Marketed under the brand name Chantix, varenicline interferes with nicotine receptors in the brain. It reduces the pleasurable physical effects of smoking and the symptoms of nicotine withdrawal. Possible side effects include headaches, nausea, vomiting, trouble sleeping, unusual dreams, flatulence and changes in taste. No research has been done to determine whether this drug is safe to use with nicotine replacements.
  • Atropine and scopolamine combination therapy: Shots of these drugs reduce nicotine withdrawal symptoms. Possible side effects include dizziness, constipation, dry mouth, altered sense of taste and smell, problems urinating and blurry vision.


  • Acupuncture, sonopuncture and electroacupuncture: Acupuncture is a technique in which very thin needles of varying lengths are inserted through the skin. Sonopuncture uses sound waves to stimulate the acupuncture sites. Electroacupuncture uses tiny electrical charges, with or without needles, to stimulate the same acupoints. There is no clear evidence that these treatments are effective.
  • Laser therapy or cold laser therapy: Similar to acupuncture except it uses laser beams to stimulate the body’s acupoints. The treatment is supposed to relax the smoker and release endorphins to simulate the effects of nicotine in the brain or to balance the body’s energy to relieve the addiction. No scientific evidence shows this is effective.
  • Filters: Reduce tar and nicotine in cigarettes. Generally ineffective; studies show smokers who use filters tend to smoke more.
  • Smoking deterrents: Include products that change the taste of tobacco, “stop-smoking diets” that curb nicotine cravings and combinations of vitamins. There is little scientific evidence to support their effectiveness.


These have been neither reviewed nor approved by the Food and Drug Administration:

  • Tobacco lozenges and pouches, nicotine water and wafers: Allow smokers to get nicotine in places where smoking is not permitted, rather than as quit-smoking aids. Concerns have been raised about the safety of nicotine water and wafers.
  • Nicotine lollipops and lip balms: Often contain nicotine salicylate with a sugar sweetener. Concerns about safety and legality have been raised.


  • Set a quit date and seek outside support. Tell family, friends and co-workers you plan to quit.
  • Anticipate and plan for the challenges you’ll face while quitting.
  • Remove cigarettes and other tobacco products from your home, car and work.
  • Ask your doctor about help.
  • Go to smoke-free public places or sit in non-smoking areas.
  • Keep your hands busy. Put something else in your mouth.
  • Stay away from people who smoke. Spend time with non-smoking friends.
  • Drink less or stay away from alcohol. Drink juice, soda or ice water instead.
  • Remember that the urge to smoke will come and go. Cravings are usually brief; try to wait them out.


  • MU Student Health Center: You can make an appointment for help in quitting smoking by calling 882-7481. Services include consultation, counseling, assessment, help designing a plan for quitting and medicinal therapies. Medicines are not covered by the prepaid student health fee.
  • Missouri Tobacco Quit Line: Call 800-QUIT-NOW (800-784-8669) for phone counseling.
  • American Lung Association: Call the Freedom from Smoking program at 314-645-5505. It offers classes and weekly counseling for up to seven weeks.
  • Show Me Health Project: Call 573-634-5165.
  • American Cancer Society: Call the Columbia office at 443-1496.

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