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Letter to the Editor

Editor, – A recent comment about the drug varenicline (Aust Prescr 2008;31:24-7) carries the statement that 'although many smokers try to stop, very few succeed without assistance'. This statement is not true.

There are now more ex-smokers than smokers in Australia. About 30% of adults, or about 4.5 million people, once smoked and smoke no longer.1Most people who attempt to quit do so.

Self-quitting - quitting without the aid of clinical interventions - has not been well studied. About 20 years ago, it was estimated that 90% of Americans who quit did so on their own.2

A recent Australian study showed that things have not changed all that much. Quitting cold turkey was the overwhelming method of choice used in their previous quit attempt by former smokers (88% of attempts) and current smokers (62% of attempts). In contrast, nicotine patches had been used by 7% of former smokers and 28% of current smokers.3

Pharmacological aids help some smokers quit. But the great majority of smokers continue to quit on their own.

Mark Ragg
Adjunct senior lecturer, School of Public Health
University of Sydney


  1. Australian Bureau of Statistics. Tobacco smoking in Australia: a snapshot, 2004-05. 2006. Report No.: 4831.0.55.001.
  2. Fiore MC, Novotny TE, Pierce JP, Giovino GA, Hatziandreu EJ, Newcomb PA, et al. Methods used to quit smoking in the United States. Do cessation programs help? JAMA 1990;263:2760-5.
  3. Doran CM, Valenti L, Robinson M, Britt H, Mattick RP. Smoking status of Australian general practice patients and their attempts to quit. Addict Behav 2006;31:758-66.