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Can Meditation Help People Quit Smoking?

The UW-CTRI meditation study is designed to examine how "mindfulness" meditation can help people quit smoking. 

Early results show promise, said lead researcher James Davis, a University of Wisconsin physician. Quit rates are quite high, especially in participants who started the study with an interest in learning meditation.  Davis said about 60 participants have learned mindfulness, a cognitive skill that may be used to help manage craving, withdrawal symptoms, stress and negative emotions, all powerful determinants of relapse. 

“Many participants who have started meditation have reported profound experiences,” Davis said. “We’ve seen people not only quit smoking, but begin daily exercise, change their diet, be more generous to others, increase their curiosity about life and improve relationships.”

Jim Powell, psychotherapist and meditation instructor, teaches the meditation classes.  In the class, participants have learned how to handle craving episodes, internal triggers, external influences and withdrawal.


Researchers are examining the effectiveness of using meditation to help people quit smoking
Researchers are examining the effectiveness of using meditation to help people quit smoking

Matt Majeskie, who has a masters degree in psychology with an emphasis in addiction research, runs the control intervention.  He educates participants on the physiologic processes and long-term health consequences of smoking, as well as the obstacles related to quitting.  Majeskie helps them adopt strategies to manage those challenges.  This intervention is matched to the meditation intervention, both in terms of time and intensity.  For example, instead of meditating for 30 minutes, the control participants take a 30-minute walk.  The team will complete data collection in spring 2008. 

To inquire about this study, send an e-mail message to

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