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Quitting smoking on impulse?

Published on October 21, 2014 at 14:41 / Updated on April 10, 2019 at 14:47

We all know that smoking is really bad for our health. Smokers know it too and many would desperately like to rid themselves of the habit. According to some experts, the key to success is in the planning. The better a smoker plans how he or she is going to quit, the better he or she will succeed. But now a new study published in the British Medical Journal (BMJ) states that smokers who quit on impulse have a greater success rate!

According to the authors of the study, we can compare a spontaneous attempt to quit smoking to a mathematical phenomenon called the “catastrophe theory”. According to this theory, the accumulation of tension in a situation leads to a moment when an event of relatively little importance triggers a dramatic change. This is how some smokers confronted with the accumulating tension of smoking restrictions, high cigarette prices, pressure from family members etc., finally come to the decision to quit smoking on impulse.

But why would these smokers be more successful than those who carefully plan their attempts to quit? The authors believe it falls back on motivation. The motivation of a man who wakes up one morning, lights a cigarette and is told by his teenager “dad, you gross me out when you smoke” is probably greater than that of a man who plans to quit smoking on October 1st.

The study published in the BMJ was based on retrospective data, that is to say the subjects of the study were questioned on their past attempts to stop smoking. To really know if the conclusions of this study are actually long lasting, there now needs to be a study in which researchers observe smokers while they are trying to quit.

Assuming that their first hypotheses are correct, the authors of the study believe that smoking cessation campaigns should be based on 3 aspects: 1) create a tension in smokers to increase their motivation to quit smoking, 2) trigger action in those who are on the verge of quitting, 3) support their attempt to quit with medication and/or counselling.

To plan or not to plan? That is the question!

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