Quitting Smoking Cold Turkey Has a Very Low Success Rate

This article is part 12 of the Top 20 Rebuttals to Win an E-Cigarette Debate


Putting out a cigarette to quit smoking

Photo credit: Morgan


A good majority of smokers trying to quit will try the cold turkey method at least once in their lifetime. By “cold turkey” we mean they will attempt to abruptly stop smoking cigarettes all together. While this may be the cheapest method used to quit smoking, it is definitely not the easiest.


In making a cold turkey quit smoking attempt, you are not allowing medications to be used to deal with withdrawal symptoms, nor are you gradually reducing your nicotine intake. It is both physically and mentally stressful as withdrawal symptoms can persist for weeks in heavy smokers.


Hurdles of Quitting Cold Turkey


Going cold turkey can also trigger fluctuations in heart rate and blood pressure, especially in smokers with anxiety disorders. It can also cause depression and extreme hormonal rearrangements, causing those making the attempt to become agitated easily. Because of this, most smokers who try quitting cold turkey wind up relapsing.


According to Statistic Brain and the American Cancer Society, only about 3-7% of smokers who try going cold turkey end up actually quitting. Because e-cigarettes are so new to the market, we don't have any reliable quit rates for them yet. We can still estimate quit smoking rate with e-cigs to be somewhere around 30% based on small preliminary surveys and studies.


Quit Smoking Statistics


Success Rates of E-Cigs


One such survey was conducted in 2011 by the Boston University Department of Community Health Sciences. The online survey found that over a six month period, smoking abstinence for e-cigarette users was 31% and two thirds of participants reported they at least reduced their daily cigarette consumption. 34 percent of those who quit smoking had also ceased all nicotine intake as well as stopped using e-cigarettes.


Just this past June, Italian researchers published the results of a year-long trial involving 300 participants unwilling to give up smoking. Participants were each given outdated, low nicotine level models of a cheap “cig-a-like” electronic cigarette to use over the course of 12 weeks. Remarkably, 11% of the reluctant field had quit smoking at the end of the 52 weeks with 73% of those who quit also no longer using e-cigs. Remember, these were smokers who had no intention of quitting!


While these surveys and trials were based off small sample sizes, the statistics show a drastic difference between quit smoking rates from using electronic cigarettes and going cold turkey. However, just like the cold turkey method, e-cigs might not be for everyone. But for an ever growing number of vapers, they were the only method that worked.


Further reading:


Quitting Success Rates – American Lung Association

Electronic Cigarettes As a Smoking Cessation Tool (Online Survey) – Preventive Medicine

Safety of An Electronic Cigarette As Tobacco Cigarette Substitutes – PLOS ONE