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Caffeine and smoking cessation
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Jonathan Foulds, PhD posted:
Many visitors to this site have commented on the close association between smoking and caffeine consumption, most commonly involving smoking while having a cup of coffee. I have seen lots of good advice being shared about trying to reduce the cigarette cravings that can be triggered by a coffee break by changing the routine, drinking a different drink etc.
But I would like to mention a few other ways that caffeine consumption can interact with smoking cessation. When people quit smoking, their metabolism of certain drugs slows down, and caffeine is one of those drugs. This means that if you normally drink 6 cups of caffeinated coffee per day and you continue with the same consumption after quitting smoking, your blood caffeine levels will build up more and remain higher for longer than before you quit smoking. For example, you may feel like you have consumed 9 cups, even after you had 6. This would not matter very much if it wasn't for the fact that too much caffeine can have some unpleasant effects. For example, even moderate caffeine consumption can cause palpitations, sweating, feelings of anxiety and difficulty sleeping. Sometimes people who were heavy caffeine consumers experience these symptoms when they quit smoking and assume it is caused by the stopping smoking or the smoking cessation aids they are taking, when it is really the caffeine that is causing the symptoms.
It is fairly typical for caffeine metabolism to slow down by around 40% on stopping smoking, but the change appears to be proportional to how heavy a smoker the person was (i.e. bigger effect for heavier smokers) and also subject to large individual differences (e.g. some people will have very little change in caffeine metabolism on stopping smoking, and some people will experience a four-fold slowing in their caffeine metabolism).
My advice to people who are planning to quit smoking is to reduce their caffeine consumption by at least 50%, and to avoid drinking your usual caffeinated beverage completely in situations where cigarettes are available (note, caffeine is present in many common drinks other than coffee, check this link ). So if you feel like you need a caffeine kick to get you going in the morning, and after lunch, that's fine, but change your usual habit. I suggest against stopping all caffeine consumption suddenly as that will likely cause caffeine withdrawal symptoms such as headache and fatigue. Don't buy your morning cup at the usual place that also sells your cigarettes, and don't go for the coffee/smoke break with your smoking buddies at work. Try drinking tea, or some other low calorie drink, or decaf at other times, and don't drink any caffeinated drinks after 4pm in the afternoon unless you specifically want it to keep you awake at night. Stopping smoking can feel stressful enough without experiencing symptoms of anxiety, sleeplessness and having cigarette cravings triggered by unnecessary cups of coffee.
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Jonathan Foulds, PhD. is a Professor of Public Health Sciences at Penn State University, College of Medicine. After obtaining a first class honors deg...More

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