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Practicing Mind-Body Exercises to Prevent or Control Smoking

Mind-Body Exercises are an effective alternative to stop smoking

At the national level, Centers for Disease Control & Prevention (CDC), estimates that 42.1 million people, or 18.1% of all adults (aged 18 years or older) in the United States smoke cigarettes. Cigarette smoking is more common among men (20.5%) than women (15.8%). In addition, the smoking rates are also higher among adults with less education and adults who live below the poverty level.1

Research has demonstrated that cigarette smoking is the leading cause of preventable death in the United States, where more than 16 million Americans also suffer from a disease caused by smoking.1,2,3 Those diseases include deadly lung conditions, heart diseases and stroke, miscarriage, low birth weight, damaged DNA in sperm, abnormal blood sugar levels, kidney disease, and lung cancer, to name just a few. Even low levels of smoke exposure, including exposures to secondhand tobacco smoke, can cause the similar problems.1,2,3 In addition to the tobacco-caused mortality and morbidity, tobacco agriculture causes substantial environmental damage from providing farm-land and deforesting for growing tobacco or manufacturing the product. Cigarette smoking is also the leading cause of fatal household fires and grass and forest fires.4

Currently, most efforts to prevent or control smoking at the federal and state levels are based on the strategies recommended by the World Health Organization (WHO) in Framework Convention on Tobacco Control (FCTC, 2003),5 including raising taxes on tobacco products, limiting smoking in public, requiring new health warnings on cigarette packages, and regulating the firms’ manufacturing and marketing efforts. WHO’s recent recommendations to further counter the tobacco epidemic are known by their acronym MPOWER, which stand for:

Monitor tobacco use and prevention policies;

Protect people from tobacco use;

Offer help to quit tobacco use;

Warn about the dangers of tobacco;

Enforce bans on tobacco advertising, promotion and sponsorship;

Raise taxes on tobacco (WHO, 2013).6

Although the strategies are effective, they still represent a disease-based approach to control smoking. Instead of focusing on interventions that reduce smoking and its harmful effects, however, there is the option that involves using an alternative strategy of effectively preventing, reducing or eliminating smoking through popularizing mind-body exercises, such as Tai Chi, yoga, hiking or walking, Qigong or other mental-physical activities. This approach is based on evidence-based research findings that like other drug addictions, smoking addiction represents a type of goal-directed behavior, and that it is best viewed as a maladaptive way to get desired mental experiences (e.g., pleasure, energy). Smoking can be prevented or terminated if one can use adaptive and healthy ways to reach the same mental experiences.

For example, with the analysis of fourteen peer-reviewed clinical trials about mind–body practices such as yoga or other meditations that intended to aid smoking cessation, researchers found that mind-body exercises such as tai chi, yoga can greatly generate healthy mental and physical energy. All the literature supports yoga and meditation-based therapies as candidates to assist smoking cessation.7 In addition, research also has shown that self-spaced walking or a bout of brisk walking can also reduce an individual’s smoking behavior, delay craving for smoking cigarette.8,9 A study with the sample of 1,374 adolescents participating in a 4-year prospective longitudinal survey of health behaviors also shows that rewarding physical activities reduces the likelihood of adolescent smoking uptake.10

It is recommended that the healthcare authorities at various levels recognize the mind-body intervention as particularly cost-beneficial for smoking control and prevention by better allocating available resources on related research, education and program developing.


1. Centers for Disease Control & Prevention (CDC). Smoking & Tobacco Use Page.…. Accessed April 16, 2014.

2. Centers for Disease Control & Prevention (CDC). 2010 Surgeon General's Report: How Tobacco Smoke Causes Disease.…. Accessed April 16, 2014.

3. NIH. Stamp Out Smoking. Accessed April 18, 2014.

4. Davis R, Wakefield M, Amos A, Gupta P. The hitchhiker's guide to tobacco control: A global assessment of harms, remedies, and controversies. Annual Review Of Public Health [serial online]. 2007;28:171-194.

5. World Health Organization (WHO). (2003). Framework Convention on Tobacco Control. Retrieved from

6. World Health Organization (WHO). (2013). MPOWER. Retrieved from

7. Carim-Todd L, Mitchell S, Oken B. Mind–body practices: An alternative, drug-free treatment for smoking cessation? A systematic review of the literature. Drug And Alcohol Dependence. October 2013;132(3):399-410.

8. Taylor A, Katomeri M. Walking reduces cue-elicited cigarette cravings and withdrawal symptoms, and delays ad libitum smoking. Nicotine & Tobacco Research [serial online]. November 2007;9(11):1183-1190.

9. Taylor A, Katomeri M, Ussher M. Effects of walking on cigarette cravings and affect in the context of Nesbitt's paradox and the circumplex model. Journal Of Sport & Exercise Psychology [serial online]. March 2006;28(1):18-31.

10. Audrain-McGovern J, Rodriguez D, Cuevas J, Sass J. Initial insight into why physical activity may help prevent adolescent smoking uptake. Drug And Alcohol Dependence [serial online]. October 2013;132(3):471-478.