The effects of smoking schedules on cessation outcome: can we improve on common methods of gradual and abrupt nicotine withdrawal?

J Consult Clin Psychol. 1995 Jun;63(3):388-99. doi: 10.1037//0022-006x.63.3.388.


This study compared the efficacy of 2 traditional methods of smoking cessation, gradual reduction and "cold turkey," with a new approach involving variation in the intercigarette interval. One hundred twenty-eight participants quit smoking on a target date, after a 3-week period of (a) scheduled reduced smoking (progressive increase in the intercigarette interval), (b) nonscheduled reduced smoking (gradual reduction, no specific change in the intercigarette interval), (c) scheduled nonreduced smoking (fixed intercigarette interval, no reductions in frequency), or (c) nonscheduled nonreduced smoking (no change in intercigarette interval or smoking frequency). Participants also received cognitive-behavioral relapse prevention training. Abstinence at 1 year averaged 44%, 18%, 32%, and 22% for the 4 groups, respectively. Overall, the scheduled reduced group performed the best and the nonscheduled reduced group performed the worst. Both scheduled groups performed better than nonscheduled ones. Scheduled reduced smoking was associated with reduced tension, fatigue, urges to smoke, withdrawal symptoms, increased coping effort (ratio of coping behavior to urges), and self-efficacy, suggesting an improved adaptation to nonsmoking and reduced vulnerability to relapse.

Publication types

  • Clinical Trial
  • Comparative Study
  • Randomized Controlled Trial
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Nicotine / administration & dosage
  • Nicotine / adverse effects*
  • Recurrence
  • Smoking / psychology*
  • Smoking Cessation / methods*
  • Smoking Cessation / psychology
  • Substance Withdrawal Syndrome / prevention & control*
  • Substance Withdrawal Syndrome / psychology
  • Time Factors
  • Treatment Outcome


  • Nicotine