Areas of Science Human Behavior
Time Required Very Long (1+ months)
Prerequisites None
Material Availability Readily available
Cost Low ($20 - $50)
Safety Adult supervision highly recommended when conducting surveys.


Maybe you know someone who smokes, and you want to help them to quit. They've probably already told you how hard it is to stop once a person has started smoking. This project tries to answer the question: What is the most effective way to stop smoking?


The objective of this project is to determine which is the most effective method to quit smoking

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Andrew Olson, Ph.D., Science Buddies


The idea for this project is from:

Cite This Page

General citation information is provided here. Be sure to check the formatting, including capitalization, for the method you are using and update your citation, as needed.

MLA Style

Science Buddies Staff. "Calling It Quits: What Is the Most Effective Way to Quit Smoking?" Science Buddies, 20 Nov. 2020, Accessed 18 Apr. 2021.

APA Style

Science Buddies Staff. (2020, November 20). Calling It Quits: What Is the Most Effective Way to Quit Smoking? Retrieved from

Last edit date: 2020-11-20


It has been established that nicotine, a substance found in cigarettes, is addictive. As with any addiction, tobacco use is a very difficult habit to break. Even with the knowledge that smoking is addictive and ongoing campaigns about the negative health effects of smoking, people continue to pick up the smoking habit. There are many products, which are designed to help people to break their addiction, but do they really work or is it just as effective to stop smoking on your own? This project can help you to understand what drives people to smoke and to determine the effectiveness of stop-smoking aids.

To do this project, you will have to design and conduct a survey of ex-smokers and current smokers to find out what method(s) they have used to try to quit smoking. In order to get an accurate result, it is important to include both groups (ex-smokers and current smokers) in your survey. If you left out current smokers, there is a chance that less-effective methods would be under-counted by your survey.

Refer to the Science Buddies resource, Designing a Question-Based Study, for guidance in designing your survey. The Science Buddies resource, How Many Survey Participants Do I Need?, will show you how to figure out how many respondents you need to recruit in order to achieve your desired level of confidence that your results are representative of the total population.

Terms and Concepts

To do this project, you should do research that enables you to understand the following terms and concepts:

  • quitting "cold turkey,"
  • nicotine replacement therapy,
  • self-help kits for quitting smoking,
  • group therapy/support for quitting smoking,
  • addiction,
  • nicotine.


In addition to the website in the Bibliography, your family doctor would be a good source of information for these questions:

  • What are the most common methods for quitting smoking?
  • What is the rationale behind nicotine replacement therapy as an aid for quitting smoking?
  • What effects does nicotine replacement therapy have on the human body?
  • What effects does tobacco have on the human body (including the brain)?


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Materials and Equipment

To do this experiment you will need the following materials and equipment:

  • surveys,
  • clipboards,
  • pencils,
  • computer with spreadsheet program (e.g., Excel or QuattroPro) for analyzing survey results.
  • Finding a mentor who can provide guidance for the statistical analysis would be a great way to get even more out of this project.

Experimental Procedure

Note: There are special considerations when designing an experiment involving human subjects. ISEF-affiliated fairs often require an Informed Consent Form for every participant who is questioned. In all cases, the experimental design must be approved by a scientific review committee (SRC) prior to the commencement of experiments or surveys. Please refer to the ISEF rules for additional important requirements for studies involving human subjects:

Designing the Survey

  1. Do background research so that you are knowledgeable about the terms, concepts, and questions.
  2. With your background research in hand, design a question-based survey to determine which method(s) the survey participants used to quit smoking (see Designing a Question-Based Study).
  3. As noted in the Introduction, your survey needs to include a question to distinguish between ex-smokers and current smokers.
  4. As you design your survey, keep in mind that for many smokers, it takes multiple tries before being able to break the habit for good. Some of your survey participants are likely to have tried multiple approaches to quitting. Your survey should take advantage of this by including questions on attempts to quit the habit. For example, you might questions along these lines:
    1. How many times have you tried to quit smoking?
    2. For each time you tried to quit, please describe the method used and the length of time you succeeded in stopping smoking.
  5. It's always a good idea to do a "test-run" of your survey with a few volunteers before printing up a big stack. Fix any problems in the survey that you identify with the test run, and then go ahead and make your copies for the actual survey.

Administering the Survey

  1. You'll need to get a large number of volunteer participants (see How Many Survey Participants Do I Need?).
  2. Some ideas for finding volunteer participants are:
    1. asking for volunteers at a busy shopping center or other public gathering place (adult supervision highly recommended);
    2. leaving blank surveys and a collection box in a doctor's or dentist's waiting room;
    3. finding a support group for ex-smokers or smokers trying to quit and ask if you can visit or drop off copies of your survey.

Analyzing the Results

There are many possible ways to analyze the data from this experiment. You may find it helpful to work with a mentor who has some experience in statistical analysis. Here are some suggestions to get you started:

  1. Calculate the success rate for each method of quitting smoking.
    1. List all of the different methods used in attempts to quit smoking.
    2. Tally up the number of times each method was used in an attempt to quit smoking.
    3. Then tally up the number of successful attempts for each method.
    4. Finally, calculate the success rate (# of successful attempts/total attempts) for each method.
  2. Also, spend some time analyzing the unsuccessful attempts. Do all of the methods result in similar durations of smoking cessation, or do some methods show longer (or shorter) average durations?
  3. More advanced students should also examine the statistical significance of their results by formulating a null hypothesis (describing results due to chance alone) and testing their results against this hypothesis.

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Here are some alternative (or perhaps additional) questions you may want to consider for your survey of current and ex-smokers:

  • At what age do most smokers begin to smoke?
  • Why did they start smoking?
  • What percentage of current smokers want to quit, and why?

Share your story with Science Buddies!

I did this project Yes, I Did This Project! Please log in (or create a free account) to let us know how things went.

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