Many people who stop smoking do so "cold turkey." As is the case with most addictive habits, this approach to change is not suitable for everyone and often leads to frustration and feelings of defeat.


Heavy smoking is different from other addictive habits in that the behavior often becomes strongly associated with a variety of situations. Certain times of the day, certain mood states, certain places, even certain people become associated with smoking.


Therefore, stopping all at once often times leads to an onslaught of urges and cravings which occur throughout the day. This can be quite overwhelming, if not intolerable, leading to relapse and self-statements like, "This habit is stronger than me. What??Ts the use?"


Gradual reduction is a viable alternative for some people for the following reasons:


1. It enables you to develop urge control skills at a manageable pace, starting with the easiest smoking situations and, with success, moving on to stronger urge situations. This approach can be quite empowering and have a "snowball effect."


2. Learning which situations are most difficult to tolerate without tobacco enables you to understand "the meaning" of the habit (e.g. boredom reduction, stress reduction, social influence), so that you can begin to modify your lifestyle by substituting more healthy alternatives .


3. An "all or nothing" approach to habit change often leaves people alternating between total abstinence and heavy smoking. By learning to cope with urges in specific situations, lapses can be caught early on and coping responses can be initiated so that a slip does not become a full blown relapse.


4. Some people prefer to moderate their smoking ("chipping") as opposed to quitting altogether. By learning to control urges in particular situations, many people can learn to limit their smoking to specific situations.


Below are the basic guidelines for smoking reduction:


1. Monitor your smoking for a week. Do not attempt to cut back during this time. Monitor the situations in which smoking occurs (for example, on break at work after meeting). Also monitor the mood you experienced prior to use (for example, anxiety, boredom, happiness). Rate how strong the urge was (e.g. 0= little or no urge -- 5= extremely strong urge).


2. Determine which situations tend to have the least intense urges and occur in response to the least intense emotions. Decide to cut back by one cigarette for two or three days. The following techniques can be useful for decreasing the potency of urges:


a. De-catastrophize. Urges can be overwhelming. Remind yourself of the following: "No one ever died from an urge." "With success in avoiding urges, they will occur less frequently and less intensely." "I??Tve coped with worse, I??Tll get through this for sure." etc.


b. Dispute expectancies. Learn to recognize what you expect tobacco to do for you when you experience an urge. you might be thinking, "I??Tll feel much better if I light up." Put those expectancies in perspective by responding with statements that highlight the negative consequences of lighting up and the benefits of avoiding giving in.


c. Distraction. Practice shifting your attention during strong urges. In and of itself, distraction is often unhelpful, but after de-catastrophizing and disputing expectancies effectively the urges often decrease to a level where distraction is possible.


d. Monitor consequences of smoking avoidance. People often notice some negative changes when giving up a habit. Some feel like they have lost a passion and wonder how they will cope without it. These feelings are not irrational. Smoking, like any addictive habit, endures because of the positive consequences. It will be important for you to develop other passions, or you will be left with an unbalanced lifestyle.


Others notice an increase of stress? Try to develop alternative methods for dealing with stress, e.g. exercise, meditation, imagery, relaxation techniques.


3. As you become successful with the initial situation, move on to others, always keeping change efforts at a manageable level (most people find eliminating three or four cigarettes per week tolerable.


4. Manage lapses. A slip does not have to lead to a full blown relapse. If you backslide in an area you previously mastered, tell yourself that it is "no big deal." Try to "nip a slip" in the bud. Don??Tt allow yourself to entertain such thoughts as "Well, I failed. what??Ts the use, I might as well have another smoke."


Alternative self-statements include: "Well, I slipped this morning. It was a stressful day and I just lost control. I feel less stressed now and can get back on track. I need to put my efforts into stress reduction. If I can keep myself from smoking heavily for the rest of the day this will have been a tremendous success." Detailed monitoring of the lapse can provide you with useful information as to areas in which you need to put more effort.