Cutting Down Does Not Help You Quit Smoking. Here’s Why.

Image: Ian Dooley on Unsplash

Please- ignore your anxiety right now and let me explain.

Please don’t “x” out of this article because your thoughts and fears have taken over. Everything’s all right, I promise.

The problem with writing for smokers is that smokers block out most of what you say, the second you say it. In reality, if you’re smoking, you are effectively doing this more often than you think.

I’m trying to give you a beautiful secret, but I need you first to humor me about “the argument,” the one where a smoker tells me that they’re going to “cut down” and I tell them that they are not, that they can’t, and that that strategy doesn’t work.

First of all, as a smoker, I need you to realize one undeniable fact: you are a drug addict.

If you took heroin, and you injected it into your body, every time you injected it, you would refresh your addiction. The withdrawal from heroin is painful, unlike nicotine, so we don’t relate the two together. In fact, they’re exactly the same thing.

Being addicted to one drug is no different than being addicted to the other. I’d argue cigarettes are worse because you’re carrying along seemingly thinking everything is fine. Your life isn’t noticeably falling apart around you, so you continue the hellish storm you’re putting your body through.

Cutting down on cigarettes is no different than cutting down on heroin. Every time you smoke another one, you become re-addicted to that drug.

If you haven’t picked up a copy of Allen Carr’s The Easy Way to Stop Smoking, you really should. I read this book when I quit. Then, I gifted it to a bunch of people. Those who read it, quit.

Allen Carr says that in addition to continuing to provide your body with the drug, there are also psychological factors that keep people who try to “cut down” just as, if not more, addicted.

I talked about the dirty, annoying concept of “Willpower” in my article Willpower is a Dirty Word. This reintroduces the willpower method, which doesn’t work.

According to Allen Carr, when you “cut down,” every moment you’re not smoking is spent holding out for the next minute when you can smoke. That makes you miserable and the cigarette coveted.

Allen Carr also says that when someone freely indulges in cigarettes, (you know, like when you’re not trying to quit,) they don’t really enjoy them. When you’re “cutting down,” you enjoy every cigarette. Please, pick up this book.

I know that when I tried to quit by cutting down, I failed, for all of the reasons I just mentioned.

When I tried to place nicotine in my body via other methods, a vape, a patch, some nasty gum, etc., I never really became un-addicted and thus, I never knew what it was like not to be going through withdrawal.

People want a steppingstone to stop because they are afraid. They don’t realize that after a few months (I’m being real with you here) of being uncomfortable, years of happiness lie ahead. Can you imagine a trip to the airport?

The airport is my favorite place, now. I’ll probably mention this time and time again. I love sitting at the airport bar, talking to strangers from everywhere, excited about where I’m going and the journey there through the skies. When I was smoking, all I could think about was my anxiety about flying, not being able to smoke post TSA, and not being able to wait to get to the sidewalk of the next city before lighting one up.

What kind of life is that?

I tell people, “you need to just stop,” and then we have “the argument.”

See, they don’t want to believe me. They’re afraid. They haven’t taken the time to change their minds yet, but I know that if they just stopped, they’d be OK. Their lives would be wonderful.

They tell me that they know a person who “cut down” successfully. (It’s a lie, and if it isn’t, that person went through years of hell before finally throwing in the towel.)

They tell me that they can’t just do it “cold turkey” because they have a trip planned.

They tell me that Christmas is coming.

They tell me that they have to be in a wedding (either on Memorial Day weekend or Labor Day weekend, because everyone gets married then and don’t tell me they don’t) and they just can’t gain weight before that time.

(Sidebar- you’re not going to gain weight.)

They argue that they don’t really like vaping so if they just use that, they’ll eventually get tired of the flavor and stop. (They won’t.)

They tell me that they’re more addicted to menthol than nicotine, so if they smoke non-menthol, they’ll stop. (They won’t.)

The trip, Christmas, the wedding, and every other thing you can think of will be worse as a smoker than as a non-smoker. You get to own your beautiful life as a non-smoker.

There’s always going to be another holiday, guys.

Stop hanging on. You’re a drug addict. Every drug addict that stops has to be uncomfortable for a little bit. You’re afraid of this discomfort. It’s causing you anxiety. But guess what?

The discomfort of the “cutting down myth” is way worse than the discomfort of just stopping, and a life as a smoker is even more uncomfortable than all of it combined.

Change your mind. Stop having “the argument.” Stop having it with me and stop having it with yourself. The time is now.

Originally published at on November 18, 2020.

I’m an unconventional thinker with quick wit. Coach. Sociologist. Mindset shift guru. Creator of and the Get The F*ck Off Podcast

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