quit-smokingPeople who desire to stop smoking often wait until the day they quit to start using smoking cessation aids. While this practice may work for some people, new research suggests that smokers can increase their chances of quitting successfully by beginning taking smoking-cessation medication before they are ready to quit, The New York Times reports.

Clinical practice guidelines recommend that doctors advise their patients set a quit date before being prescribed smoking cessation pills, particularly Chantix (varenicline).

“Sometimes serious addiction needs to be coaxed down the stairs one at a time, not thrown off the top floor,” said Dr. David Abrams, Executive Director of the Schroeder Institute for Tobacco Research and Policy Studies.

Of 1,500 smokers at 61 clinics in the United States and abroad who took part in the study, none reported wanting to quit right away, according to the article. However, all the participants said they wanted to cut back and be smoke-free within three months. Half of the participants took Chantix twice a day, while the other group was given placebo pills.

The researchers found that almost one-third of smokers who were given Chantix were able to quit within six months, compared with 6 percent of those in the placebo group.

“This study is important because this opens the door to treatment for approximately 14 million smokers who have no intention of quitting in the next 30 days but are willing to reduce their smoking rate while working toward a quit attempt,” said lead author Jon Ebbert, M.D. of the Mayo Clinic, in a news release. In the past, these smokers may have not received medication therapy, and we want them to know that different approaches are available.”

The study was funded by Pfizer, the makers of Chantix, according to the article. While the findings of the study are relevant and show promise, more independent research is needed before clear conclusions can be drawn.

“The approach taken here is a very reasonable one that appears to have been successful,” said Gary A. Giovino, a professor of health behavior at the State University of New York at Buffalo. “But the findings from one study do not make a fact. We need more studies, funded by someone other than the company that makes the product.”

The findings were published in the Journal of the American Medical Association.