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Smoking Fewer Cigarettes

Topic Overview

Reduced smoking is a conscious change in the amount you smoke. It can prepare you to quit smoking at a later date, even if the quit date doesn't come for a long time. Reduced smoking has some limitations, and it should not be a goal itself, because it is not clear that it reduces the health risks of smoking.

  • People who smoke only a few cigarettes have more health problems than people who do not smoke.
  • People who cut back on the number of cigarettes they smoke tend to change their puffing patterns so they get more nicotine out of each cigarette. This process is called nicotine compensation.
  • It may be difficult to maintain a reduced rate of smoking over time.
  • It is best to use reduced smoking as a step toward quitting, not as an end in itself.

If you reduce your smoking as a step towards quitting, this may help you quit for good. Gradually cutting down the number of cigarettes you smoke and going longer without smoking can help you feel more in control of your smoking. You will be less dependent on nicotine, which can make it easier to quit.

Methods to reduce smoking

Methods to reduce smoking include the following:

  • Each week choose a few specific cigarettes to give up (for example, the ones you smoke in the car on your way to work).
  • Gradually increase the time between cigarettes.
  • Smoke only during odd or even hours.
  • Limit your smoking to certain places (outside, not at work, not in the car).
  • Wait as late in the day as possible to start smoking.
  • Try going one day without smoking.

In research studies, nicotine replacement therapy medicines helped smokers reduce the amount they smoked. But using nicotine replacement therapy for this purpose has not been approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA). Your doctor can advise you about using medicine to reduce your smoking.

Related Information

Credits

By Healthwise Staff
Primary Medical Reviewer Adam Husney, MD - Family Medicine
Specialist Medical Reviewer John Hughes, MD - Psychiatry
Last Revised August 15, 2013

Last Revised: August 15, 2013

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