Is there really a "best way" to quit smoking?

2:10 PM, Feb 19, 2018
9:49 AM, Dec 12, 2018

If you’re thinking about quitting tobacco, you might be wondering if there’s really a best way to quit smoking.

There are four methods people typically use to quit:

1. Cold turkey

2. Nicotine replacement therapy only

3. Counseling support only

4. Counseling support + nicotine replacement therapy

There are benefits and challenges of each. There is also no right or wrong way to quit. No matter which one you choose, the fact that you’re taking the first step to quit is what’s important.

Quitting cold turkey

What it is: Deciding to stop all nicotine at once

Success rate: Very limited1

This is the classic method for quitting that you’ve probably tried at least once. People have different methods for going cold turkey, but the basic idea is that you decide when you’re going to quit tobacco, and stop using any more from that point forward. Some people prefer this method because you can start at any time, but it’s the hardest method to stick to.


• You can choose to quit at any moment.

• No cost.  Since you’re not using any aids to quit, there’s no cost to you, plus you can save the money that you would have spent on tobacco.


• High rate of relapse. Studies have shown that only 3-5% of cold turkey quitters are successful.1

• Can be stressful because it requires a lot of willpower to accomplish.

• Higher chance of severe nicotine withdrawal symptoms.

• Feelings of failure. 

Nicotine replacement therapy only

What it is: Quitting with the help of medications that contain nicotine

Success rate: Varies

Nicotine replacement therapy (NRT) is the general name for medications that help you quit tobacco, like nicotine gum, patches, orlozengesas well as prescriptions like Chantix, Zyban (Wellbutrin), nicotine inhalers and nicotine nasal spray. The main benefit of NRTs is that they can help reduce your nicotine withdrawal symptoms while you quit. When you work with a Quit Coach through ASHLine, may be eligible to receive four weeks of free NRTs.*


• Helps you manage your nicotine withdrawal symptoms

• Delivers “clean” nicotine.  NRTs give you nicotine without the other harmful chemicals like tar, formaldehyde and more that are typically in tobacco products.


• May have a cost.  If you don’t have health insurance or if NRTs are not covered under your policy, then you may have to pay out of pocket. The average 6-week treatment can cost $80-$200.

• Still requires effort. 

• Important to follow dosage. 




Counseling support only

What it is: Using a quitline service or person that provides professional advice, encouragement and coaching to quit

Success rate: 2x as likely to quit for good2.

When you get counseling support from a service that can walk you through the quitting process, it makes you twice as likely to quit smoking for good. That’s according to data from the U.S. Public Health Service’s Treating Tobacco Use and Dependence: 2008 Update.

The reason counseling support is so effective is because it makes you think about ways to change your behavior to keep you from falling back into old habits.

Quit Coaching from Arizona Smokers’ Helpline is an example of free counseling support and it’s available to all Arizona residents.


• Many are free to use.  Most quitlines and many counseling support services out there are free.

• No prep time. Just call or contact the quitline and they will help you get started. You can sign up for ASHLine here.

• Your counselor can walk you through every stage of quitting and give you specific recommendations for how to build a new life without tobacco.

• Get emotional support. Counseling support helps you understand your emotions as you go through your quit journey.

• Higher chance of success.


• Still likely to have withdrawal symptoms.  Quitting with coaching support will help you get through the emotional and mental parts of quitting, but the physical craving for nicotine will still be there.

• Takes time to stay connected.  Counseling support takes a little bit of time investment to check in with your counselor or coach regularly.

• May feel uncomfortable to open up. 

Counseling support + nicotine replacement therapy

What it is: Combining support from a quitline service or person with a product that contains nicotine to quit.

Success rate: 3x as likely to quit for good2.

According to studies, using counseling support with NRTs like nicotine gum, patches, etc. has been shown to be the most effective method to quit tobacco2. TheU.S. Public Health Service’s guideline states that this method can triple your chances of quitting for good.


• Free NRTs.  When you sign up with ASHLine, you may be eligible to receive 4 weeks of free NRTs.*. The average 6-week treatment can cost $80-$200.

• Free counseling support. 

• No prep time.

• Learn new strategies.

• Get emotional support. 

• Higher chance of success. 

• Helps you manage your nicotine withdrawal symptoms.

• Delivers “clean” nicotine. 


• Takes time to stay connected.

• May feel uncomfortable to open up. 

• Important to follow dosage. 

What it all means

When it comes to quitting, there’s no “wrong” option. It depends on your goals and what feels right to you.

There are options that can significantly increase your chances of success, and ASHLine is here to help. Call us at 1-800-55-66-222 or sign up to be called by one of our Enrollment Specialists.


*You may be eligible for these if you are privately insured or uninsured. If you have Medicaid or insurance through the Arizona Health Care Cost Containment System (AHCCCS), then your Quit Coach will help you get quit medications covered by your insurance plan.
1. Hughes, J, et al. “Shape of the relapse curve and long-term abstinence rates among untreated smokers,” Addiction, 99, 29-38, 2004.
2. Knox, Becca. “Quitlines help smokers quit.” 6 April 2017.

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