Stopping smoking: the 5 best methods

Want to stop smoking? Congratulations. That’s a good idea. Now you need plenty of willpower – to change both your habits and your lifestyle. On average, smokers need three to five attempts to give up smoking for good. We’ll show you how.

Text: Brigitte Wenger; photo: iStock

It’s definitely a good idea to give up smoking. Just 20 minutes after your last cigarette, your pulse and blood pressure return to a normal level. After eight hours, your blood starts to supply your organs with sufficient oxygen again. 24 hours later, your risk of suffering a heart attack falls, which shows how stressful smoking is for your heart. 

A few days after your last cigarette, you’ll find that food tastes better. Over the coming weeks and months, you’ll have fewer coughing fits and shortness of breath. And after ten years, your risk of lung cancer is only half as high as when you smoked. In Switzerland, 9,500 people die each year as a result of tobacco consumption.

The facts speak for themselves. But what’s the best way to give up smoking?

These are the most successful methods:

Stop smoking behavioural therapy

Giving up smoking is about more than overcoming an addiction. It’s about scrutinising your own behaviour and changing your lifestyle. When do I smoke? In which environment? How does smoking benefit me? Why do I want to stop? A therapeutic approach tailors the smoke-smoking strategy to each individual, prepares you for the time you stop and provides support over several weeks or months – even in the event of a relapse. As the path to stopping smoking is very personal, both group courses and individual treatments are available. 

Success rate: Combined with nicotine replacement products or medication, behavioural therapy is the most effective treatment for giving up smoking, with a success rate of around 30%.

Nicotine replacement products

Nicotine patches, nicotine lozenges, nicotine inhalers: There are several non-prescription nicotine replacement products that can help reduce withdrawal symptoms, because nicotine is what makes cigarettes addictive. Physical withdrawal only lasts a few days. Using replacement products can help wean you off the nicotine dependency and reduce symptoms such as weight gain. This transitional phase with replacement products should be completed after three months at the latest. 

However, the psychological withdrawal, i.e. changing your habits to stop smoking for good, is much more complicated. Professional support, such as behavioural therapy, can help – see above.

Success rate: Compared with a placebo, nicotine replacement therapy doubles the chance of giving up smoking for good.


In Switzerland, two active ingredients are available on prescription to help you stop smoking: vareniclin and bupropion. They reduce the pleasure of smoking, ease withdrawal symptoms and also have an antidepressant effect. These medications may only be dispensed in consultation with a doctor and based on a treatment plan. They are geared towards heavy smokers – and only if the other methods they’ve tried have been unsuccessful, because the medication can also have side effects.

Success rate: Studies show that stop-smoking treatments are two to three times more likely to be successful when supported by medication.

Books, apps, stop smoking hotline

These are basically also a form of behavioural therapy, but they set the bar lower. There are plenty of books in the library: Allen Carr’s “Easy Way to Stop Smoking” is a self-help classic. Lungenliga Bern recently published a workbook that guides you page by page through the process of stopping smoking. And those who prefer online resources can find help at

And if you want advice by phone, you can call the Stop Smoking Hotline on 0848 000 181. The first call is subject to a charge, the advice is free and each subsequent call is a callback.

Hypnosis and acupuncture

Simply click your fingers to give up smoking – sounds too good to be true? It is! Hypnotherapy can help reduce the craving for a cigarette and strengthen the will to quit. But this therapy also requires a preliminary talk, several sessions and the independent continuation of therapy through self-hypnosis. Acupuncture, i.e. the insertion of fine needles at strategic points of your body, is primarily intended to calm and thus alleviate withdrawal symptoms. It can be used in conjunction with other methods to stop smoking.

Success rate: Why not give it a go when other methods haven’t worked? However, hypnosis and acupuncture are not scientifically proven to stop smoking. The promises of success that you see online are often not proven in the long term.  

3 questions for the expert

Claudia Künzli is head of health promotion and prevention at Lungenliga Schweiz.

Claudia Künzli, the risk of a relapse after stopping smoking is high. How can this be prevented?

A relapse is usually connected to a specific situation – it’s about avoiding these situations. If you liked having a cigarette with your coffee in the morning, switch to tea instead. If you always used to smoke in the same place, avoid that place. If you always smoked with the same friends, tell them you’ve stopped smoking – that makes you accountable and they know they shouldn’t offer you any more cigarettes. Behavioural therapy will help you identify these triggers. And the support will motivate you to keep going, even if you have a relapse. 

How can you avoid gaining weight?

Unfortunately, it’s normal to gain two to five kilogrammes. The nicotine in cigarettes affects metabolism and burns calories. However, this settles down again over time; until then, nicotine replacement products can ease the symptoms. Make sure that you don’t just swap smoking for eating and drinking – do more exercise instead.

Are e-cigarettes a good alternative?

It may have been a noble idea to replace smoking with perhaps less harmful vapour. However, our experience shows that swapping to e-cigarettes isn’t an effective way to stop smoking, but actually encourages people to take it up. After only a short time, many smokers start smoking traditional tobacco products as well as e-cigarettes, which doesn’t bring any health benefits.