Why quitting cold turkey is the only way to go—plus two simple, natural tricks for tackling even the toughest urges to smoke
By now, you’re well aware that smoking is hazardous to your health. But for most smokers, quitting cold turkey is easier said than done.
So, many people fall back on less extreme ways to curb the habit. Unfortunately, these tactics don’t really offset the dangers of smoking…and in some cases, they can lead to even more problems.
The good news is, research shows one of my favorite nutritional supplements can actually help offset even the strongest urges to smoke, making quitting for good much easier.
I’ll tell you more on that in just a moment. But first, let’s look at why smoking less or switching to vaping aren’t the “happy mediums” you might think.
Why cutting back doesn’t cut it
First things first, let me bust an incredibly destructive myth that I see in my own practice every day: Simply “cutting back” on your cigarette smoking isn’t enough.
In fact, research shows that even people who smoke a few cigarettes a day are suffering long-term lung damage—and the difference between two full packs and a quarter-pack isn’t nearly as wide as you’d think.
Columbia University scientists zeroed in on lung function in a group of more than 25,000 smokers, former smokers, and never-smokers. And they found that rates of decline among light smokers were much closer to heavy smokers than never-smokers.1
Specifically, they found that light smokers face the same lung function losses in one year as heavy smokers would lose in nine months.
Meaning that occasional cigarette is a lot riskier than you may think. And simply cutting back really only represents a modest improvement over chain smoking—which means that light smokers may face a much higher risk of lung diseases like Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD) than we ever realized.
To make matters worse, this same study found that it takes at least 30 years for an ex-smoker’s lung capacity to level out. So you don’t just want to quit… you want to quit as soon as humanly possible.
And the same goes for that vape pen, too. Because the verdict on e-cigarettes is in—and the news isn’t good.
Vaping isn’t a safe alternative to smoking
Published literature to date shows a long list of disturbing lung injuries associated with electronic nicotine delivery systems (ENDS)—e-cigarettes, vaporizers, or vape pens—all visible on CT scans.2
These include pneumonitis and hemorrhaging in the alveoli—the tiny sacs where lungs take in oxygen. As well as acute eosinophilic pneumonia—where white blood cells accumulate in the lungs.
And that’s not to mention the long list of other forms of pneumonia associated with ENDS, based on recent findings published in the New England Journal of Medicine…
Mayo Clinic researchers looked at lung biopsies from 17 patients with suspected vaping-associated lung injury. They didn’t see evidence of injury from lipids like mineral oil additives, which has been one suspect behind vaping injuries. But what they did find may be even more concerning.
In fact, vaping-associated lung injuries appear to be chemical in nature—much like what you would see if someone was exposed to toxic fumes and poisonous gases. Which would suggest that vape liquids carry chemical contaminants, noxious agents, or generate toxic byproducts with use. All of which can cause irreversible—and potentially lethal—lung damage.3
So, if you’re really serious about getting healthy, you need to quit cigarettes in any form, no exceptions.
Take the edge off with omega-3s
I understand that addiction is addiction. And I know that quitting cold turkey takes immense courage and commitment. But luckily, there are resources available that can make quitting easier. And I’m not talking about counterproductive patches or nicotine gum.
In fact, new research shows that one of the best tools to help you kick your smoking habit is a supplement you should already be taking every day: fish oil.
This randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled pilot trial showed that smokers who took 2,710 mg of EPA and 2,040 mg of DHA every day for one month reported significant decreases in both daily smoking and tobacco cravings. And these benefits didn’t falter, even in the month after treatment with EPA and DHA stopped.4
This study was small, but if you or someone you love is trying to quit, there’s no reason to wait around for more proof. So go ahead and pick up a high-quality omega-3 supplement today. (I recommend at least 3,000 mg of DHA and EPA daily.)
And while you’re at it, pick up a new pair of running shoes, too…
Walk away from nicotine for good
Researchers at St. George’s University of London examined the effects of exercise on nicotine-treated mice, who ran on exercise wheels for anywhere between two to 24 hours per day. And they found that, compared to the mice that were sedentary, even moderate intensity exercise was able to dramatically reduce withdrawal symptom severity.5
Of course, there’s no way to guarantee that workouts will have the same effect on humans trying to kick tobacco. And I generally don’t put too much stock into research on mice for this very reason.
But replacing a cigarette break with a brisk walk around the block certainly isn’t going to hurt anybody’s efforts to get healthier—it can only help. And exercise should already have a place on everyone’s resolution list, regardless of their smoking status.
It doesn’t take much, either. Even just a 20 minute walk every day can make a remarkable difference.
So take your fish oil, lace up your sneakers, and toss that nicotine in the trash, once and for all. Because you have nothing to lose… and a lifetime of health and freedom to gain.
- Oelsner EC, et al. “Lung function decline in former smokers and low-intensity current smokers: a secondary data analysis of the NHLBI Pooled Cohorts Study.” Lancet Respir Med. 2020 Jan;8(1):34-44.
- Henry TS, et al. “Imaging Findings of Vaping-Associated Lung Injury.” AJR Am J Roentgenol. 2019 Oct 8:1-8.
- Butt YM, et al. “Pathology of Vaping-Associated Lung Injury.” N Engl J Med. 2019 Oct 31;381(18):1780-1781.
- Rabinovitz S. “Effects of omega-3 fatty acids on tobacco craving in cigarette smokers: A double-blind, randomized, placebo-controlled pilot study.” J Psychopharmacol. 2014 Jun 4;28(8):804-809.
- Keyworth H, et al. “Wheel running during chronic nicotine exposure is protective against mecamylamine‐precipitated withdrawal and up‐regulates hippocampal α7 nACh receptors in mice.” Br J Pharmacol. 2018 Jun;175(11):1928-1943.