Cutting down before quitting: smoke & mirrors?

John (Gold)

May 21st, 2004, 11:22 pm#1

When you cut down on smoking,
you actually smoke more!

Washington | May 21, 2004 5:19:24 PM IST - ANI News
Smokers who cut down on smoking are in for self-deception. So say researchers at Ohio State University's Comprehensive Cancer Center.

Carrying out the study, the researchers revealed that those who reduce smoking quickly often alter their smoking mannerisms to compensate for reduced tobacco.

Ironically in the process they sometime land up consuming more smoke, carbon monoxide, nicotine and other cancer causing ingredients."The human body really is a miracle. It knows when it is not getting what it's used to, and it automatically does something about it," Karen Ahijevych, an associate professor of nursing and a member of The Ohio State University Comprehensive Cancer Center, said.

Researchers have discovered that, generally, when women restrict smoking they take larger drags and smoked more of the cigarette before putting it out. Also, when smoking fewer cigarettes, women produced more CO in their exhaled air per cigarette, compared to when they smoked their regular number of cigarettes or increased use.
Ahijevych studied 25 women over six days in varying smoking situations. and observed the way the women smoked measuring things like, the number and size of the puffs per cigarette, the length of time between puffs and how much of the cigarette was smoked before it was extinguished.

Higher CO and nicotine boosts were especially pronounced among women who were defined as efficient smokers.

"We were surprised at how much the very efficient smokers could increase their levels of CO and nicotine even further. And the interesting thing is that most of these women were totally unaware that they were changing the way they were smoking to make up for fewer cigarettes," Ahijevych said.

"There are a lot of social pressures on smokers to quit these days. Workplaces and restaurants are increasingly adopting bans on smoking, and we know that as taxes on tobacco increase, sales drop off. Millions of people want to quit and they often see cutting back as the first step in a long-term strategy. Unfortunately, our research suggests that this may be giving them a false sense of security," Ahijevych added.

"The bottom line for smokers is to be aware that just because they smoke 12 cigarettes a day instead of 20 doesn't mean that they are less dependent on tobacco. As clinicians, we need to understand that a person who smokes half a pack a day may be just as dependent as a person who smokes a whole lot more, and may need an equally aggressive treatment plan," cautions Ahijevych. (ANI)
Copyright 2004 ANI & Suni System

Also see ...
Last edited by John (Gold) on March 16th, 2009, 3:33 am, edited 1 time in total.


May 23rd, 2004, 8:53 pm#2

Hi john
I have witnessed this effect many times when someone is standing outside an office building desperately puffing harder to load up with nicotine because they know that they have to head indoors to the non smoking place and subconsciously they are trying to get a bigger supply to last them a few hours but you yourself know nicotines half life and they are causing themselves extra harm,i am curious as to what would happen if they banned smoking in pubs in my country because i have many friends who are active addicts with busy social lives,would they perhaps hold parties as opposed to going to the pub in a prohibition type of way,thankfully i jumped the sinking ship before it goes down.
Rickdabler 1 year 2 months 2 weeks+happily nicotine free.

John (Gold)

May 23rd, 2004, 9:06 pm#3

Hey Rick. Yes, I think to an unknown degree it's also being reflected in a statistical decline in per day cigarette consumption rates following a major price increase such as happened in New York. If so, a vastly more intense assault upon the body could have a impact in years to come upon the rate of onset of a host smoking related health risks.


May 23rd, 2004, 9:09 pm#4

John: Thanks for the info. Further evidence of what a cunning addiction we deal with huh? Very interesting!



May 23rd, 2004, 11:14 pm#5

This is a process I used to talk about a lot in the past. Actually I am going to attach an article from my library that discusses the issue that I wrote back in 1986. Back then most people who used the cutdown technique ended up heavier smokers. I am not so sure that it is true today considering smoking restrictions in public and private places are setting maximum limits of how many people can smoke, but back then many people turned themselves into heavier smokers by using the cut down technique. I should also mention back then that cutting down was the method of choice endorsed by most of the professional health agencies of the world. Most discouraged cold turkey quitting siting that it was just too difficult. Then pharmaceutical devices became available and the major health organizations then admitted that cutting down was pretty much a waste of time but "luckily" there were now the "new effective" techniques making sure that no one should ever have to go through cold turkey quitting. It is amazing how misconceptions never seem to change in this field. The other thing that doesn't change when it comes to the field of smoking cessation is the one true fact that can secure a person's quit forever. That fact is that to quit smoking and to stay free forever is really as simple as committing to never take another puff!
Joel's Reinforcement Library

"You know smoking two or three
cigarettes is better than having
smoked two or three packs!"

This statement was angrily snapped at me by an irate clinic participant on her third successive day of cheating during her stop smoking clinic. She was mad because I kept telling her that she was blowing her chance at quitting smoking. I told her that as long as she smoked three or two cigarettes or even a single puff, she should just smoke the other two packs she would normally consume in a typical 24 hour period. She was suffering horribly and was convinced that all this misery had to serve a useful purpose. I was belittling her valiant attempt, and she was mad as **** at my arrogance.

She had been in other professional programs before. The other programs considered an 80% reduction in smoking a great accomplishment. Sure, they thought 100% would be better, but not all people could do 100%. Her physician would probably agree as well, that, if she couldn't quit, at least she drastically reduced her smoking. Her family and friends were most likely equally impressed by her major victory. Then she would come in to our meeting and I would say she was back to square one and should either smoke everything or stop all together. What made her so mad was her conviction that I really thought she was doing a great job but wouldn't admit it to her.

Contrary to her beliefs, I did not consider her attempt at reducing smoking a praiseworthy effort. Cigarette smoking is an addiction. Because of this, smoking is an all or nothing proposition. While her other programs, family, friends and other professionals may have viewed her drastic reduction as impressive, they all failed to understand that reduction was a temporary state. Reducing smoking by 50, 80, 90, or even 99.99% is worthless. It will result in a complete failure in the attempt. This failure will most often result in an eventual return to the old level of consumption and may even lead to a substantial increase over the level smoked prior to the attempt at quitting. It does not pay to cut down for a day or week or even a month just to become a heavier smoker for years afterward because of it. The end result of such a pattern is often the loss of one's health and eventually one's life. No one has ever lost his or her life from following our clinic's cold turkey and total abstinence approach, but many have already died and many more will die from disregarding it.

Eventual loss of health and life is not the only problem with cutting down in our program. There is the more immediate problem of intensified withdrawal lasting over a longer duration of time. It's not that the quitter is treating herself to one or two a day. In fact, she is prolonging the period during which she feels that she is depriving herself of 30 or 40 per day. This period will last until she either totally quits and survives through the initial quitting phase or until she reaches her old level. Unfortunately, the latter is the outcome in the vast majority of similar situations.

For a person truly dependent on nicotine, cutting down on tobacco consumption is guaranteed suffering and failure. It doesn't pay to suffer just for the sake of suffering. Quitting cold may cause some discomfort, but it is short term, and the end result can be freedom from cigarettes. Sure, quitting cold turkey can be difficult. But--for an addict--quitting by any other means is virtually impossible. Given the choice between difficult and impossible, go for the difficult. At least there is a chance of success. With that success comes improved health, self-esteem, societal acceptance, more money and an overall improvement in the quality of life. Once quitting is accomplished, all that needs to be done to maintain a life free from nicotine addiction is to - NEVER TAKE ANOTHER PUFF!


© Joel Spitzer 1986, 2000
Last edited by Joel on March 16th, 2009, 3:35 am, edited 1 time in total.


May 24th, 2004, 12:24 am#6

Forget it! Yuck! I vividly remember "over-compensating" and really taking long drags off of cigarettes on breaks at work, upon leaving a store, gosh, everywhere! Sure am glad I no longer have to do that!
...feeling mighty comfortable at 1 year and 4 months
1 Year and 4 Months...
Last edited by valeriescleanGOLD on March 16th, 2009, 3:28 am, edited 1 time in total.

John (Gold)

May 24th, 2004, 1:08 am#7

Excellent point Joel. This is right in line with all the new tolerance explanations. You were just way ahead of your time, young man ; )

While engaged in attempting to satisfy the brain's daily nicotine dependency needs with fewer cigarettes (our old level of tolerance) not only will a number of brain neurochemical pathways attempt to further desensitize themselves to protect against even higher concentrations of nicotine, through both physiological changes and psychological conditioning the smoker risks permanently increasing their level of intake.

But that doesn't explain my intake esclation as I never attempted fadding. What I'd like explained is why following each relapse I watched my daily number of cigarettes smoked take a hefty jump. You'd think it would have the opposite effect and after relapse it would have taken months or even years to climb back to my pre-relapse intake. Up to 3 packs a day, I could handle too many more quits : )) I still thank God for the Internet and for Joel ; ))


May 24th, 2004, 1:58 am#8

The phenomena of increased tolerance to a drug even when that drug is not being administered has been recognized for a long time. People who stop drinking after years of abuse and then relapse years or decades later will often go back at levels as if they had never stopped. Their bodies have basically gotten better at metabolizing and excreting alcohol even though it has not had to deal with the substance during the period that they had stopped drinking. I think this is why they have called alcoholism and other drug addictions a progressive disease that does not end once the drug is no longer delivered. There was never any reason to believe that nicotine was any different and I saw from constant observations that the same principle holds true for nicotine and smoking. Again, as with any addiction the only way to end the withdrawal is to eradicate the drug entirely from the system and the only way to guarantee that you never have to face withdrawal again is to stay totally committed to never take another puff! Joel

JoeJFree Gold

March 1st, 2006, 8:51 am#9

Given the choice between difficult and impossible, go for the difficult. At least there is a chance of success. With that success comes improved health, self-esteem, societal acceptance, more money and an overall improvement in the quality of life. Once quitting is accomplished, all that needs to be done to maintain a life free from nicotine addiction is to - NEVER TAKE ANOTHER PUFF!

forza d animo

February 3rd, 2008, 11:12 am#10

Cutting back does not work. It order to quit smoking, you have to quit smoking. Only when you stop completely do allow your body the opportunity to rid itself of all nicotine and the thousands of other toxins in tobacco. You are otherwise in a constant state of withdrawl and using delayed gratification to reinforce the falacy that you really enjoy those cigarettes that you allow yourself to smoke. What you really enjoy is relief from withdrawal.

It does not take months of cutting back to quit. It only takes a decision to never take another puff.

JoeJFree Gold

September 26th, 2008, 5:26 am#11

Given the choice between difficult and impossible, go for the difficult. At least there is a chance of success. With that success comes improved health, self-esteem, societal acceptance, more money and an overall improvement in the quality of life. Once quitting is accomplished, all that needs to be done to maintain a life free from nicotine addiction is to - NEVER TAKE ANOTHER PUFF!