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What you need to know about success rates 

Around 80% of quitters try to quit on their own with no help, but research shows that just 3-5% of such quitters are still smoke-free a year later. Most don’t even make it a week.

Is using a quit aid much better?  Approximately 20% of quitters use the patch, gum or some other method, so how many of these successfully quit? This information can be harder to uncover than you might think.

Have you ever noticed how quit smoking websites almost NEVER quote success rates? Have you ever wondered why that is? Is it that their success rates are unknown, or is there some other explanation?

Well, the research has been done – there’s no doubt about that. According to Cochrane’s Review of Abstracts, an independent website that looks at evidence in medicine, there have been:

  • 24 trials of acupuncture for quitting smoking
  • 53 trials of antidepressants (mostly Zyban or Wellbutrin)
  • 9 trials of hypnosis
  • 132 trials of Nicotine Replacement Therapy (patch, gum, lozenge etc.) and
  • 3 Chantix / Champix trials.

This is a full list of all of the quit smoking methods covered by their research.

As you can see, there is plenty of data available; the question is why isn’t it quoted? Why won’t a nicotine patch manufacturer give smokers the success rate for using their product? Is there something to hide?

cutting through the jargon

Researchers only very rarely provide an actual success rate as the 'man in the street' would define it (which is strange because it’s not difficult to calculate). More frequently they compare success rates vs. placebo and express the improvement as an Odds Ratio (OR). So if a treatment works twice as well as placebo, then it is given an OR of 2. If it is half as effective the OR is 0.5.

The placebo effect is said to double a treatment’s effectiveness. So if you gave one group nothing and another group a placebo, you would expect the placebo group to do twice as well due to the placebo effect.

So if we assume that the success rate for someone using no quit smoking aid is 3-5% (this figure is accepted by everyone in the quit smoking industry) then the success rate for a placebo anything would be double that – around 6-10%. With that in mind, let’s take a look at the success rates for various quit smoking methods.