Four Ways to Quit Tobacco


  • Both cigarettes and smokeless tobacco are harmful to your health
  • Quitting tobacco will improve your health and mission readiness
  • Find a quitting option that works for you

If you’re reading these words, you either want to quit tobacco or you want to help another Soldier or loved one quit.

You know tobacco eats away at paychecks and does nasty, life-threatening things to your mouth, throat, and gums.

Two out of every three smokers want to quit, and more than half have tried to in the last year. Unfortunately, only one in 10 people who try to quit are successful.

There are physical and psychological reasons why quitting tobacco is hard. But stopping now will make you smell better, improve your ability to perform in the field, and could add years onto your life.

Consider the following four options for quitting. Try one, try all four—whatever it takes to quit.


  • How it works: Quitting cold turkey means stopping tobacco—period, end of story. If you smoke, dip, or chew today, you don’t tomorrow, or the next day, or any day thereafter. Cold turkey is the cheapest, yet most difficult method of quitting, with the lowest percentage of success.
  • Downside: Nicotine cravings and withdrawal symptoms that include bad temper, insomnia and depression.
  • Who it’s best for: Quitting cold turkey may be most effective for lighter, occasional tobacco users who are not as physically addicted as long-term users.


  • How it works: Available at drugstores, nicotine gum contains a small amount of nicotine that enters your body through the lining of your mouth. It’s especially good for stopping sudden cravings—just pop in a piece and the gum acts quickly.
  • Downside: This stuff isn’t cheap. You’re looking at about $40 for 100 pieces, and you’ll go through them quickly in the first several weeks. Also, it will never fully satisfy your desire to inhale smoke.
  • Who it’s best for: Gum may be best for users who can’t quit cold turkey, but aren’t serious enough smokers to need patches or medication.


  • How it works: Nicotine patches stick to your skin like Band-Aids and drip precise doses of nicotine through your skin and into your bloodstream. Your doctor can help determine the right dose for you.
  • Downside: You need a new patch every day until your cravings go away, and that timeline depends entirely on you. Forgetting to remove patches at night can interrupt sleep. Cost is also a consideration—about $40 for a two-week kit.
  • Who it’s best for: Patches may be best for users who haven’t been able to quit cold turkey or with gum.


  • How it works: Quit-smoking pills have been clinically proven to decrease tobacco cravings and withdrawal symptoms. They are easy to use, highly effective, and only available by doctor’s prescription.
  • Downside: Some quit-smoking pills are packaged with Food and Drug Administration warnings that the medicines may be associated with serious mental health problems, such as depression and severe anxiety. Common side effects also are rough: agitation, insomnia, headaches and dry mouth.
  • Who it’s best for: Medication is best for heavy, long-term tobacco users who need to quit their physical addiction and can afford the monthly prescription.


The Quit Tobacco Campaign has free tools and information to help Service members quit tobacco—for themselves and for the people they love.

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