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Quitting Smoking Starts in the Brain

Analysis by Dr. Joseph Mercola Fact Checked

Story at-a-glance -

  • Mindfulness training (MT) reduces activity in the posterior cingulate cortex (PCC) area of the brain; in smokers, the PCC is activated in response to smoking cues
  • People who used a mindfulness app had a reduction in self-reported daily cigarette consumption by an average of 11 cigarettes per day, compared to nine cigarettes per day for those using a standard quitting-smoking app
  • There was an association between the number of modules completed in the mindfulness app and the number of cigarettes given up per day
  • In those for whom the app worked best, there was a significant reduction in brain activity in the PCC in response to smoking-related images

In 2016, 59% of Americans who have ever used cigarettes quit smoking — an increase from 50.8% in 2005. The statistics are encouraging, showing declines in overall cigarette smoking among U.S. adults during that time, but nearly 38 million Americans still smoke every day or "some" days.

Nearly 7 in 10 current smokers say they want to quit completely, and most former smokers did so without the use of scientifically backed smoking cessation methods. That being said, programs that deliver treatments using cellphones have been proven to be effective for helping smokers quit, and apps that harness the use of mindfulness may be particularly effective by leading to changes in your brain.


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