Giving up smoking

Complementary approaches to quitting

Many types of support are available privately as well as on the NHS. This section covers people’s experiences of hypnotherapy, acupuncture and other self-help approaches that people have tried to help them quit smoking. Usually people have to pay for these complementary approaches – the investment of £100 or more could encourage people to take the quit attempt very seriously but for some this was just too much to pay. Caroline wanted to try acupuncture and hypnotherapy but thought them too expensive.


Different types of hypnotherapy are offered to help people to quit smoking. Some types aim to strengthen people’s desire to quit, weaken their desire to smoke, or help them concentrate on a smoking cessation programme. There is not enough good quality evidence to be sure whether hypnotherapy is as effective as behavioural counselling.
Roger’s wife gave up successfully using six sessions of hypnotherapy, but after Roger had had three sessions he started smoking again.
Other people said it was important to be in “the right frame of mind” or to be calm to deal with the cravings. Anna was told that at the Allen Carr clinic they did ‘something like hypnosis’ but she hadn’t felt this had happened at all. Carol had decided, after spending £400 on 6 hypnosis sessions, that she was not very responsive to being hypnotised.


Acupuncture is a treatment that uses needles to stimulate particular parts of the body and has been used to lessen withdrawal symptoms from giving up smoking; there is not enough evidence to say whether it is effective.
Self-help books

Various self-help books on the market aim to help people understand why they smoke, and to support their attempts at quitting. One of the better known is ‘Allen Carr’s Easy Way to Stop Smoking’. Some people reported very positive experiences of reading this book, even if they were not actually planning to quit. Part of the appeal of the book is that Allen Carr was himself a 60-a-day smoker so as Lisa said, “You’re listening to someone who really knows what it’s like”.
Other people had read the book and had been helped by some of the advice. The book had helped to wean Anna off smoking but she had started again after a while. Tam had been helped on one of her attempts at quitting but then she had got drunk and “fell off the wagon”.
Other approaches

Substitution, for example having a glass of water or cup of tea or coffee instead of a cigarette, was a popular method. However this was not a good idea for those who had always accompanied a drink with a cigarette. Going for a walk, eating a piece of fruit, eating sweets or chewing gum (whether nicotine gum or ordinary gum) were all tried as substitutes and distractions.

Haseen and others talked about trying aversion therapies. He left a cigarette in a glass overnight and then drank the (disgusting) liquid. He said this approach did not stop him smoking although the taste was so revolting that he could not eat all day.

Mariam had tried self-help books, CDs, and tapes, as well as chewing gum and nicotine replacement patches, but she still smoked. John said that the relaxation tapes, intended to help smokers find a way to feel calm without a cigarette, irritated him at the time but looking back he can see what they were getting at. Sarah found that informal “coaching” from a colleague had helped her more than any other approach that she had tried.

(Also see ‘Giving up with others and online support’).

Last reviewed August 2018.


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