Researchers have stumbled across a unique and unheard method to help smokers quit smoking. A group of researchers says inhaling a pleasant odor can be helpful in decreasing the urge smokers experience. Albeit temporary, the research team thinks they may be able to use it as a part in a smoking cessation program. The research was published in the Journal of Abnormal Psychology.
"Despite disappointing relapse rates, there have been few new approaches to smoking cessation in general and to craving relief in particular," said lead author Michael Sayette.
"Using pleasant odors to disrupt smoking routines would offer a distinct and novel method for reducing cravings, and our results to this end are promising," Sayette added.
Despite the fallen rates of smoking over the last 50 years, an approximate 40 million Americans smoke regularly according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Most adult smokers want to quit and at least half report trying in the past year, yet half of those who try relapse within two weeks. "Even with nicotine replacement, relapse is common. New interventions are urgently needed to help the millions who wish to quit but are unable," said Sayette.
For the study, the researchers recruited 232 smokers between the age of 18 to 55 who were not trying to quit at the time and were not using any other nicotine delivery system like gum or vaping. They were asked not to smoke for eight hours prior to the experiment and were required to bring a pack of their preferred cigarettes and a lighter with them.
The participants were asked to smell and rate a number of different odors considered usually pleasant as they arrived (e.g., chocolate, apple, peppermint, lemon or vanilla) as well as one unpleasant chemical odor, tobacco from the participant's preferred brand of cigarettes and one blank (no odor).
They were later asked to light a cigarette and hold it, but not smoke it. After 10 seconds, the participants verbally rated their urge to smoke on a scale of 1 to 100 before extinguishing the cigarette and putting it in an ashtray.
"These days, replicating prior findings is not something I take for granted, and extending the research by showing that we can maintain the effect for as long as five minutes suggests it might offer enough time for a smoker to decide to avoid or leave their high-risk situation," he said.
"Our research suggests that the use of pleasant odors shows promise for controlling nicotine cravings in individuals who are trying to quit smoking," said Sayette, who noted that additional research needs to be done to see if this strategy could prove useful alone or in combination with other approaches to smoking cessation.