Most smokers are fully aware that they should stop, but they also know that it’s easier said than done. It usually takes more than one attempt to succeed, and many smokers relapse—even years after kicking the habit.
“The limited success of current smoking cessation therapies encourages research into new treatment strategies,” write the authors of a 2013 study of alternative approaches. “Mind-body practices such as yoga and meditation have the potential to aid smoking cessation and become an alternative drug-free treatment option.”
Smokers have also found success through such practices as acupuncture, homeopathy, and the use of herbal remedies.
A promising treatment known as positive psychotherapy has provided some smokers with the psychological tools to increase their likelihood of quitting. According to the Journal of Positive Psychology, “Participants reported very high levels of satisfaction with the treatment, especially with its positive focus.”
The smokers—who were identified as having a low “positive affect” (the manner in which we experience or express positive moods)—participated in six sessions “designed to boost positive mood” as part of their more traditional cessation therapy. Their success rate was significantly higher than the general success rate for smoking cessation programs. Nearly a third of the participants were not smoking after six months.
Antismoking Lifestyle Strategies
Several studies have shown that yoga and other forms of exercise help deter the urge to smoke. One trial found that women in an eight-week, twice-weekly yoga class combined with a smoking cessation program had better results than those who participated in the program but did not include yoga. Abstinence was higher for the yoga practitioners after six months.
A recent study compared meditation to a relaxation-training program for their effects in reducing smoking. After two weeks, those in the meditation group had lowered their cigarette consumption by 60 percent. The other group did not see any reduction. Brain scans of the meditators showed increased activity in areas related to self-control.
A recent review of a dozen trials found that acupuncture provided short-term benefits for quitting. For sustained abstinence from smoking, acupuncture was no more effective than traditional methods, but it does appear to help jump-start the process. A 2013 study concluded that acupuncture “should be considered as an alternative to help smokers in quitting, especially for those whose past attempts using conventional methods were in vain.”
Antismoking Supplement Strategies
Many herbs and plants have been used to reduce cravings for tobacco. The daily ingestion of an oat extract was effective in dropping cigarette consumption from 20 per day to fewer than nine in a Japanese study. A tea made with eleven herbs reduced withdrawal symptoms in 100 male smokers over four weeks; those participants were three times more likely to succeed in quitting than a group that did not drink the tea. St. John’s wort, lobelia, and black pepper have also been studied for their use in smoking cessation, with mixed results.
To reduce cravings for tobacco, homeopathic practitioners recommend Lobelia inflata. Irritability caused by withdrawal can be treated with Nux vomica, while emotional upset linked to quitting may be soothed with Ignatia amara.
“Brief Meditation Training Induces Smoking Reduction” by Y.Y. Tang et al., PNAS, 8/20/13
“Cigarette Addiction: Proposed Natural Treatments,” NYU Langone Medical Center, www.med.nyu.edu, 2014
“Effectiveness of Acupuncture for Smoking Cessation in a Chinese Population” by E. Ma et al., Asia Pac J Public Health, 10/4/13
“Effects of Medicinal Herb Tea on the Smoking Cessation and Reducing Smoking Withdrawal Symptoms” by H.J. Lee and J.H. Lee, Am J Chin Med, 2005
“Mind-Body Practices: An Alternative, Drug-free Treatment for Smoking Cessation?” by L. Carim-Todd et al., Drug Alcohol Depend, 10/13
“Oat Extract May Cut Cigarette Cravings” by Stephen Daniells, www.nutraingredients-usa.com, 4/17/09
“Positive Psychotherapy for Smoking Cessation: Treatment Development, Feasibility, and Preliminary Results” by C.W. Kahler et al., Journal of Positive Psychology, 2014
“Yoga as a Complementary Treatment for Smoking Cessation in Women” by B.C. Bock et al., J Womens Health, 2/12