A July Gallup poll asked former smokers to identify the strategies or methods they used to successfully quit smoking. Based on their smoking cessation recommendations to the public, if you ask any anti-smoking organization what they think would be the most common answer to this question, they will most likely say:
a. Nicotine patch;
b. Nicotine gum;
c. Nicotine inhaler; or
d. Prescription drugs.
But the public's answer to the question was essentially "None of the above." Overwhelmingly, the method identified by ex-smokers as most effective for quitting was "cold turkey."
Nearly half of successful quitters (48%) identified cold turkey quitting as the most effective strategy for them. In contrast, only 5% identified the nicotine patch, 1% identified nicotine gum, no one identified the nicotine inhaler, and 2% identified prescription drugs.
Interestingly, despite discouragement from anti-smoking groups, 3% of successful ex-smokers identified electronic cigarettes as being the most effective smoking cessation strategy, higher than the proportion identifying Chantix, Buproprion, nicotine gum, or the nicotine inhaler and only slightly behind the nicotine patch.
The Rest of the Story
There are two important findings of this survey.
First, it is very clear that despite the findings of clinical trials, when you examine the question on a population basis, cold turkey quitting is the most effective strategy and the "recommended," "FDA-approved" quitting methods are not particularly useful.
What does this mean? It demonstrates what I've been arguing for months: that although clinical trials have found that NRT and drugs are effective, the absolute cessation rates are dismally low. Thus, these approaches cannot be said to be "effective" strategies for smoking cessation on a population basis.
It also demonstrates that most clinical trials results are meaningless because they involve not just NRT or drugs but intensive intervention involving multiple medical visits, assessments, counseling, etc. When used in real-life settings, these products are not nearly as effective. And of course, that is what matters most, not the clinical trial results.
Second, these findings suggest that electronic cigarettes are an effective smoking cessation tool for many smokers. Anti-smoking groups which continue to argue that there is no evidence that electronic cigarettes can be effective for smoking cessation are ignoring the evidence and misleading the public.
(Thanks to John Polito for the tip.)