Quit Smoking for Good

July 31, 2009 Written by JP    [Font too small?]

According to recent figures released by the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention approximately $200 million dollars are wasted each year in health care costs and loss of productivity due to smoking. The World Health Organization estimates that by 2030, smoking related deaths will reach the 8 million mark annually. These figures may be shocking to some. But by now, almost everyone is aware of the health hazards associated with cigarettes. Still, the fact remains that many people continue to engage in this self destructive habit. The harsh truth is that once you get hooked on nicotine, it’s not so easy to break free. But, there are some holistic practices that may assist those who are ready to quit to find some much needed support.

There are obviously many reasons why an individual begins and continues to smoke. It’s pretty well established in the medical literature that cigarettes are frequently used to manage chronic anxiety, clinical depression and ordinary stress. Therefore, scientists frequently look to mind-body techniques, natural anti-depressants and prescriptive medications that tend to target these feelings and the biological chemicals that control them. (1,2,3)

One of the most widely used naturopathic substances for psychological conditions is Saint John’s Wort (SJW) extract. In recent years there have been several scientific inquiries into the potential application of SJW in helping smokers break the habit. First, the more promising findings:

  • In July, an animal study determined that SJW can inhibit dopamine, norepinephrine and serotonin uptake in the brain. This allows for greater concentrations of these antidepressant neurotransmitters to be present and “may additionally provide a rationale for the treatment of nicotine or drug addiction with SJW”. These findings are supported by two other trials that found behavioral and biochemical changes in mice who were treated with SJW extracts. The mice in question exhibited fewer signs of nicotine withdrawal and greater concentrations of the “feel good” neurotransmitter serotonin. (4,5,6)
  • A 2006 trial published in the journal Complimentary Therapies in Medicine found similar success in 24 human smokers. Each volunteer was given a 450 mg capsule of SJW twice daily over the course of 12 weeks. By the end of the study, the “quit rate” was 37.5%, significantly higher than the average smoking cessation rates found with conventional treatments. No change in weight or adverse effects were noted. (7)

Unfortunately, other research has demonstrated less impressive results. Because the following experiments were conducted on human subjects, in a more controlled manner, they hold more weight from a scientific standpoint.

A study released in June 2009 examined the impact of 900 mg of SJW extract and 400 mcg of chromium (a trace mineral often used to manage blood sugar and weight) or a placebo in 143 patients. All of the participants received treatment two weeks prior to their proposed “quit day” and continued taking said treatments for 14 additional weeks. Those on SJW did not fair any better than those using the placebo. However, there was a trend toward less weight gain in the chromium users. Another human trial from 2006 failed to find a benefit in 28 smokers receiving a lower dosage of SJW (300 mg – 600 mg). (8,9)

There will likely be more research on the potential of Hypericum perforatum (SJW) in the years to come. Some scientists still believe that under the right circumstances, it may yield benefits to those looking to overcome nicotine addiction. But since the current state of evidence is inconsistent at best, here’s a brief review of several other natural options that appear to offer real hope. (10)

  • Hypnosis – A recent study at the San Francisco Veteran Affairs Medical Center found that hypnosis outperformed “standard behavioral counseling” (20%-24% success rates vs. 14%-18%). Smokers with a history of depression responded even better to hypnosis. Other researchers have reported smoking cessation success rates of between 40% – 81%. The variations found may have to do with differences in patient selection and the forms of hypnotherapy involved. More research is currently underway to help determine how to best utilize this mind body practice. (11,12,13,14)
  • Massage – An interesting, but preliminary study from 1999 found that self-administered ear and hand massage helped to reduce cigarette cravings, improved mood, lowered anxiety scores and ultimately diminished withdrawal symptoms in a group of 20 smokers. The portion of the group that practiced self-massage also smoked less by the end of the 1 month experiment. (18)
  • Mindfulness Meditation – A pilot study conducted at the University of Wisconsin School of Medicine’s Center for Tobacco Research and Intervention found significant benefits for 18 smokers who underwent 8 weeks of instruction in mindfulness meditation. At the beginning of the trial, the smokers averaged about 20 cigarettes per day. 6 weeks after their “quit date” and the mindfulness training, 56% (10 out of the 18 volunteers) achieved a “7-day point-prevelant smoking abstinence”. Those who practiced mindfulness meditation most frequently demonstrated the greatest results in terms of smoking cessation and an improvement in mood and stress levels. At present there are two other nicotine-addiction/mindfulness trials underway at the MD Anderson Cancer Center and the University of Pittsburgh. (15,16,17)
Source: British Medical Journal – July 2007 (link)

The most important point that I want to get across is that there really is support out there for anyone who wants to stop smoking. If the modalities that I’ve described above are not appealing to you, other options are available. For instance, certain forms of acupuncture and guided imagery appear to hold great promise in this arena. (18,19,20,21) Ultimately, it’s vital that you quit by any means necessary. But the added bonus of incorporating these holistic practices into your daily routine is that they can also help improve overall quality of life. Reducing stress levels and improving mood impacts every aspect of perception. If you or someone you care about is struggling with nicotine addiction, I hope you’ll consider the alternative therapies I’ve presented here today.

Note: Please check out the “Comments & Updates” section of this blog – at the bottom of the page. You can find the latest research about this topic there!

Be well!


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Posted in Alternative Therapies, General Health, Mental Health

13 Comments & Updates to “Quit Smoking for Good”

  1. Christina Crowe Says:

    My father has had the smoking addiction for years and is still unable to stop. So far he’s had 2 heart attacks because of it, though luckily he’s made it through it all.

    Great article.

  2. JP Says:

    I’m sorry to hear about your father’s struggle, Christina. I can understand how difficult that must be for you and all those that care about your dad. I hope he’ll soon find some way to overcome it.

    Be well!


  3. Anonymous Says:

    I can strongly feel that a revolution must be begin against this smoking.Since it has become more dangerous than other habits.

  4. Kevin Says:

    I think the hardest part of quit smoking is the mental addiction, I failed two times after 6-month quit. 🙁

    Allen Carr’s Easy Way to Stop Smoking is a great book, I can’t say I have succeeded, but it’s very probably my final attempt. 🙂

  5. JP Says:

    Good for you, Kevin!

    I’ve been told by many that overcoming nicotine addiction is a very tough challenge indeed. I’m happy to hear that you’ve found a good resource that is helping you overcome this!

    Continued success and be well! 🙂


  6. JP Says:

    Update: Another reason to avoid smoking …


    Niger J Surg. 2014 Jul;20(2):83-6.

    Association between use of tobacco and age on graying of hair.

    AIMS AND OBJECTIVES: To determine the association between smoking, chewing tobacco (gutka), and age of individual on graying of hair.

    MATERIALS AND METHODS: The present study was conducted on 120 patients attending the Outpatient Department of the DJ College of Dental Sciences and Research, Modinagar, UP. The individuals were classified into four groups (group I, II, III, IV) on the basis of the form of tobacco use (smoking or chewing). The Pearson correlation coefficient was utilized to find the correlation between the mean percentage of individuals with gray hair, risk multiplication factor (RMF), and age of the individual.

    RESULTS: Mean percentage of individual with gray hair and RMF (r = 0.6487) are found to be positively associated. A significant and positive correlation was observed between the age of the individual and the frequency of individuals with gray hair.

    CONCLUSION: This study suggests that there is a significant association between tobacco use and aging on graying of hair.

    Be well!


  7. JP Says:

    Update: 4/13/15:


    Nicotine Tob Res. 2015 Apr 11.

    Effect of Brief Mindfulness Practice on Self-Reported Affect, Craving, and Smoking: A Pilot Randomized Controlled Trial Using Ecological Momentary Assessment.

    INTRODUCTION: Despite efficacious pharmacological and behavioral treatments, most smokers attempt to quit without assistance and fail to quit. Mindfulness practice may be useful in smoking cessation.

    METHODS: This ecological momentary assessment (EMA) study was a pilot parallel group randomized controlled trial of a brief mindfulness practice (Brief-MP) intervention on self-reported smoking behavior delivered to smokers on a Personal Digital Assistant (PDA) in the field. Adult community smokers (N = 44) were randomly assigned to a Brief-MP (n = 24) or Control (sham meditation; n = 20) group. Participants were instructed to smoke as much or as little as they liked. Participants carried a PDA for two weeks and were instructed to initiate 20 minutes of meditation (or control) training on the PDA daily, completing an assessment of cognitive and affective processes immediately afterwards. Additionally, they completed assessments at random times up to four times per day. Primary outcome variables were negative affect, craving, and cigarettes smoked per day, all self-reported.

    RESULTS: Thirty-seven participants provided EMA data totaling 1874 assessments. Linear Mixed Model analyses on EMA data revealed that Brief-MP (vs. Control) reduced overall negative affect, F [1, 1798] = 13.8, p = .0002; reduced craving immediately post-meditation, (Group x Assessment Type interaction, F [2, 1796] = 12.3, p = .0001); and reduced cigarettes smoked per day over time (Group x Day interaction, F [1, 436] = 5.50, p = .01).

    CONCLUSIONS: Brief-MP administered in the field reduced negative affect, craving, and cigarette use, suggesting it may be a useful treatment.

    Be well!


  8. JP Says:

    Updated 06/04/16:


    J Health Psychol. 2016 Apr 4.

    Mindfulness training for smoking cessation: A meta-analysis of randomized-controlled trials.

    Recent studies have shown that mindfulness training has a promising potential for smoking treatment. In order to examine the efficacy of mindfulness training in smoking cessation, we performed a systematic review of the literature and meta-analysis of randomized controlled trials. Four randomized controlled trials with 474 patients were included in our analysis. The results showed that 25.2 percent of participants remained abstinent for more than 4 months in the mindfulness group compared to 13.6 percent of those who received usual care therapy (relative risk, 1.88; 95 percent confidence interval, 1.04-3.40). Our results suggest that mindfulness training may have an important role to play in efforts to lower cigarette smoking rates.

    Be well!


  9. JP Says:

    Updated 08/02/16:


    J Phys Ther Sci. 2016 Jun;28(6):1681-5.

    Effects of breathing exercises on lung capacity and muscle activities of elderly smokers.

    [Purpose] Elderly smokers have a reduced chest diameter due to weakening of the respiratory muscles, and this results in decreased ventilation, leading to a vicious circle. Therefore, the present study investigated the effects of an intervention program to enhance the pulmonary function and muscle activity of elderly smokers.

    [Subjects and Methods] Participants were randomly assigned to one of two experimental groups or a control (CG) group. The experimental groups performed exercises three times per week for six weeks, whereas the CG performed no exercises. One of the experimental groups performed a Feedback Breathing Exercise (FBE) for 15 minutes, and the other repeated three sets of Balloon-Blowing Exercises (BBE) with sufficient rest of more than one minute between sets.

    [Results] In the experimental groups, FVC, FEV1/FVC, PEF and muscle activity of the rectus abdominis significantly improved after four weeks, but no significant differences were observed in FEV1 or VC after six weeks.

    [Conclusion] The results show that FBE and BBE improved the pulmonary functions of elderly smokers, demonstrating the potential benefits of the development of various training methods using balloons, and group programs, including recreational factors, for increasing respiratory muscles strength.

    Be well!


  10. JP Says:

    Updated 11/15/16:


    J Altern Complement Med. 2016 Nov 9.

    Effects of T’ai Chi on Serotonin, Nicotine Dependency, Depression, and Anger in Hospitalized Alcohol-Dependent Patients.

    OBJECTIVES: The aim of this study was to investigate the effects of t’ai chi on blood serotonin levels, nicotine dependence, depression, and anger in hospitalized alcohol-dependent patients.

    METHOD: This study followed an experimental and nonequivalent control group in a non-synchronized design. It was performed in a hospital located in Young Ju city, Korea, from April to August 2013. Thirty-eight patients who were hospitalized with alcohol dependence were included. They were randomly divided into an experimental and a control group, with 19 patients in each group. Patients in the experimental group practiced the 24-posture yang style t’ai chi for 50 min three times per week for 8 weeks as part of the routine hospital rehabilitation program, and those in the control group followed only the routine hospital rehabilitation program. The effect of treatment was measured using blood serotonin levels and a questionnaire on nicotine dependence, depression, and anger. Both measurements were performed before and after 8 weeks of intervention. Data were analyzed using the t-test, chi-square test, and paired t-tests.

    RESULTS: The experimental group showed a significantly increased blood serotonin level (p = 0.001) and significantly reduced nicotine dependence, depression, and anger (p = 0.001) than the control group did after 8 weeks of treatment.

    CONCLUSIONS: T’ai chi was shown to be an effective nursing intervention in hospitalized alcohol-dependent patients.

    Be well!


  11. JP Says:

    Updated 01/23/17:


    Am J Addict. 2017 Jan 20.

    A pilot investigation of the impact of smoking cessation on biological age.

    BACKGROUND AND OBJECTIVES: Smoking is known to increase biological age. However, whether this process is reversible through smoking cessation is not known. In this pilot study, we attempt to determine whether smoking cessation reduces biological age.

    METHODS: We conducted regression analyses of methylation data from 22 subjects, as they entered and exited inpatient substance use treatment, to determine change in biological age, as indicated by the deviation of their methylomic age from chronological age across two time points.

    RESULTS: We found that, as compared to those subjects who did not stop smoking, subjects who significantly decreased their smoking consumption over a 1 month time period exhibited a marked reduction in methylomic age.

    CONCLUSION: The rapid and substantial reversal of accelerated aging associated with successful smoking cessation suggests that it can reverse well-known smoking effects on methylomic aging. This preliminary finding can be readily examined in other, larger data sets, and if replicated, this observation may provide smokers with yet another good reason to quit smoking.

    SCIENTIFIC SIGNIFICANCE: Successful smoking cessation makes patients appear biologically younger than they were at baseline, and to do so quite rapidly. In today’s youth driven society, our observations may serve as a powerful impetus for some to quit smoking.

    Be well!


  12. JP Says:

    Updated 10/09/18:


    Nicotine Tob Res. 2018 Oct 6.

    Yoga as a Complementary Therapy for Smoking Cessation: Results from BreathEasy ,a Randomized Clinical trial.

    Introduction: There is evidence that yoga may be helpful as an aid for smoking cessation. Yoga has been shown to reduce stress and negative mood and may aid weight control, all of which have proven to be barriers to quitting smoking. This study is the first rigorous, randomized clinical trial of yoga as a complementary therapy for smokers attempting to quit.

    Methods: Adult smokers (n=227; 55% women) were randomized to an 8-week program of cognitive-behavioral smoking cessation and either twice-weekly Iyengar Yoga, or general Wellness classes (control). Assessments included cotinine verified 7-day point prevalence abstinence (7PPA) at week 8, 3-month and 6-month follow-ups.

    Results: At baseline participants’ mean age was 46.2 years (SD=12.0), smoking rate 17.3 cigarettes/day (SD=7.6). Longitudinally adjusted models of abstinence outcomes demonstrated significant group effects favoring Yoga. Yoga participants had 37% greater odds of achieving abstinence than Wellness participants at EOT. Lower baseline smoking rates (<=10 cigarettes/day) were also associated with higher likelihood of quitting if given Yoga vs. Wellness (OR=2.43, 95% CI: 1.09-6.30) at EOT. A significant dose effect was observed for yoga (OR=1.12, 95% CI: 1.09-1.26), but not Wellness, such that each yoga class attended increased quitting odds at EOT by 12%. Latent Class Modeling revealed a 4-class model of distinct quitting patterns among participants. Conclusions: Yoga appears to increase the odds of successful smoking abstinence, particularly among light smokers. Additional work is needed to identify predictors of quitting patterns and inform adjustments to therapy needed to achieve cessation and prevent relapse. Be well! JP

  13. JP Says:

    Updated 12/17/18:


    Nicotine Tob Res. 2018 Dec 14.

    The Acute Impact of Hatha Yoga on Craving among Smokers Attempting to Reduce or Quit.

    Introduction: Despite negative effects of smoking, smokers have difficulty quitting, suggesting a need for additional strategies to help them quit. A single-session hatha yoga intervention acutely reduced craving among nicotine-deprived smokers not attempting to reduce or quit, yet it is unknown if it reduces craving among those attempting to change their smoking. Thus, the current study tested the efficacy of a single-session hatha yoga intervention for acutely reducing craving among smokers attempting to reduce or quit smoking.

    Methods: Data presented are part of a larger dissertation project. Participants were 55 community-recruited smokers (62% male) motivated to reduce or quit smoking randomized to one session of hatha yoga (n = 25) or wellness control (i.e., reading educational materials about healthy lifestyle; n = 30) on their intervention day (i.e., the day on which they began to reduce or quit smoking). Participants rated, “I have a desire for a cigarette right now”, on a 7-point Likert scale 1 immediately before and after the intervention.

    Results: After statistically controlling for CO in breath, participant type, age, gender, race, and ethnicity, a significant Time x Condition interaction was found, F(1, 47) = 4.72, p = .035, ηp2 = .09, suggesting craving decreased at a greater rate in the hatha yoga condition relative to the wellness condition.

    Conclusions: Results from the current study add to a growing body of research demonstrating the potential clinical utility of hatha yoga as an adjunctive intervention tool for smoking cessation.

    Implications: This is the first known study to test the impact of a single-session hatha yoga intervention on craving among adult smokers attempting to reduce or quit smoking. We found that 30 minutes of hatha yoga produced a greater reduction in craving compared to a 30-minute wellness control condition. This relationship was evident even after statistically accounting for other important variables (e.g., gender). Results of this study add to a growing body of literature demonstrating the potential clinical utility of hatha yoga as an adjunctive intervention strategy for smoking cessation.

    Be well!


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