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Reduced Smoking May Lead to Unexpected Quitting

Bucking notion that an abrupt halt is the only way, study finds cutting back helps

THURSDAY, Dec. 7, 2006 (HealthDay News) -- For smokers who don't think they're ready to kick the habit, reducing the amount of cigarettes they smoke may lead to unexpected quitting, say University of Vermont researchers who reviewed previous studies.

In 16 of the 19 studies reviewed, smoking reduction in people who did not want to quit led to an increase in the percentage of them who did quit. In most of the studies, smoking reduction was accompanied by the use of nicotine replacement products.

The review is published in the December issue of Nicotine and Tobacco Research. The findings suggest that doctors should try recommending reduction for smokers who haven't responded to repeated advice to quit, said study author Dr. John Hughes, a professor of psychiatry at the University of Vermont School of Medicine.

"Cutting back is approved as a method of quitting in several European countries, but not in the United States," Hughes said in a prepared statement.

"Our review contradicts the commonly held belief that quitting requires stopping abruptly and provides evidence that smokers can quit successfully by reducing the amount of cigarettes smoked. Furthermore, our review indicates cutting back is often a great way to start changing smoking that can lead to eventual quitting," he said.

However, Hughes noted that smokers need to understand that cutting back on smoking does not reduce smoking-related health risks. Doctors should explain to patients that smoking reduction is only a step toward eventual quitting.

More information

The U.S. National Cancer Institute has more about smoking cessation.

SOURCE: University of Vermont, news release, Dec. 7, 2006
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