Cutting down on cigarettes promotes quitting, Yale study says

Reducing the number of cigarettes smoked can help older smokers successfully quit smoking, a new study by Yale researchers has found.

The study will be published in the January 2004 issue of Addiction, the journal of the Society for the Study of Addiction to Alcohol and Other Drugs.

Using data from a national study of Americans between the ages of 51 and 61, the Yale study showed that reductions in the numbers of cigarettes smoked helped people quit smoking later, even after controlling for several variables, such as initial smoking level, gender, and health.

“Most experts will say there is only one way to quit smoking and that is to stop smoking altogether,” said the lead author of the study, Tracy Falba, associate research scientist in the Department of Epidemiology and Public Health at Yale School of Medicine. “Cutting down the number of cigarettes smoked, however, seems to promote quitting. Cutting down first may be an option for people trying to quit.”

While the study focused on older smokers, the concept could apply to those of any age. Falba said research on other age groups is warranted.

People who have been smoking for many years may think there is no point to quitting, but even older, longtime smokers can reap the benefits of quitting within days and weeks, Falba said.

Although some smoking experts believe that people who cut down the number of cigarettes are just cycling through quit attempts and are doomed to start smoking again, Falba said, “There wasn’t a higher instance of relapse in the group that quit. It was a stable and sustained quit effort.”

The other authors of the study were Mireia Jofre-Bonet, Susan Busch, Noelia Duchovny, and Jody Sindelar. The research team is part of the Center for Nicotine and Tobacco Use Research at Yale, which is funded by the National Institute on Drug Abuse, the National Cancer Institute and the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation.