Reduced smoking

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.

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.

In research studies, nicotine replacement therapy medications 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 medication.

Last Updated: July 22, 2009

Author: Bets Davis, MFA

Medical Review: Kathleen Romito, MD - Family Medicine & John Hughes, MD - Psychiatry

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