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Gradual Reduction in Smoking

Harry Mills, Ph.D.

clocks with people on themThere are several behavioral strategies that can help smokers reschedule and reduce their smoking by following a preplanned system. The benefit of this type of program is that smokers have a written set of instructions to follow throughout the process, rather than trying to work out their own plan. The two approaches described below use similar strategies; One is simply more high tech than the other.

Scheduled Smoking

Scheduled smoking is a behavioral approach to quitting that weans smokers from their nicotine dependence without the use of nicotine replacement therapy. When smokers first implement this program, they smoke one cigarette at the beginning of every hour, and then gradually increase the time between each cigarette. This method provides for a gradual reduction in nicotine dependence, and sticking to the schedule can help smokers break the habit of smoking at regular times or during specific activities.

Scheduled smoking has been shown to be better than uncontrolled gradual reduction or cold-turkey cessation when each was paired with a relapse prevention program. The success rate of scheduled smoking is similar to that of psychological treatment combined with nicotine replacement therapy. This plan has been recommended for people who cannot, or do not, chose to use nicotine replacement The major drawback of this method is the fact that smoking materials are still in the environment, making the possibility of relapse a serious risk.

LifeSign Computer

Another option that will allow you to gradually cut back on your smoking is the LifeSign computer. The LifeSign program lasts from two to five weeks, during which the participant is gradually weaned from nicotine dependence. During the first week of the plan, you record each time you smoke using a credit-card-sized computer. After the assessment period is complete, the computer programs a smoking cessation program for you, and it determines when you may smoke. While using this program, you are permitted to smoke only when the computer indicates that it is okay to do so. As with the scheduled smoking method, this program also helps to weaken the links between environmental triggers and smoking, since smoking opportunities are dictated by the computer rather than outside cues like as time or place. The LifeSign computer comes with a Program Guide that can help you with support and facts, and can help you to focus on improving your health once you quit. LifeSign also offers a hotline support service at no additional cost, which you can use to stay on track.

Whether you decide that scheduled smoking or the LifeSign computer is right for you, you must totally commit to either of these approaches and follow them explicitly in order to achieve the goal of smoking cessation. Because both of these approaches allow you to keep tobacco products in your environment, the threat of relapse is very real. Before choosing one of these methods, think carefully about yourself and about the support you will have when you are trying to quit. If you are a highly motivated, committed individual with friends and family to help you through this process, scheduled smoking or the LifeSign computer may work for you.

While there are a number of approaches that may be considered to reduce smoking levels and finally quit, most experts seem to agree that stopping completely on a specific quit date usually works best. For those who choose to quit gradually, the temptation to sneak an extra cigarette is always there, and many find it hard to resist. Unfortunately smoking just one cigarette can have a profound impact on your health and can erase all of the hard work you have done while trying to quit.

Whatever program you choose, keep in mind that it takes a while for old associations to be broken and for healthier substitute behaviors to become a habit. Take it hour-by-hour and day-by-day. Be patient with yourself. Try to plan ahead, and learn from experience which strategies work best for you. Be sure to plan small frequent rewards for successes in order to help maintain your motivation.

 




Contact Information

Sarah Dinklage, LICSW
Executive Director

sdinklage@risas.org

Charles Cudworth, MA
Director, SAS

ccudworth@risas.org

Leigh Reposa, MSW, LICSW
Program Manager
lreposa@risas.org

Colleen Judge, LMHC                  Manager, SAS
cjudge@risas.org 

Kathleen Sullivan
Manager, Community Prevention
ksullivan@risas.org


300 Centerville Rd.
Suite 301 South 
Warwick, RI 02886
401-732-8680


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