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No, licking salt won’t help you quit smoking

Licking a little salt will help you stop smoking. That’s the claim in a graphic circulating on Facebook in Kenya.

“Whenever you get the urge to smoke, lick a little salt with the top of your tongue,” it reads. “This will relieve the temptation instantly, and has been said to kick off the habit within a month.”

Does licking salt help smokers quit? We checked.

No research to support claim

Africa Check asked the National Institute on Drug Abuse, a US government institute that researches drug abuse and addiction, about the claim.

“There are no scientific studies that I am aware of showing a link between licking salt and tobacco cessation,” said Dr Kevin Walton, head of the clinical research grants branch at the institute.

The institute referred us to research on their website about treatments for tobacco dependence.

The research says behavioural treatment or counselling, nicotine replacement therapy and medicines are ways to help people to quit cigarettes. 

In nicotine replacement therapy, substances are used to deal with withdrawal from nicotine and to numb cigarette cravings. These include a patch worn on the skin, spray, gum, or lozenges. 

“Research indicates that smokers who receive a combination of behavioural treatment and cessation medications quit at higher rates than those who receive minimal intervention,” the institute’s research says.

“Interventions such as brief advice from a health care worker, telephone helplines, automated text messaging, and printed self-help materials can also facilitate smoking cessation. Cessation interventions utilising mobile devices and social media also show promise in boosting tobacco cessation.” 

WHO recommends ‘counselling and medication’

A 2019 fact sheet about tobacco from the World Health Organization also recommends “counselling and medication” for people who want to quit smoking.

“Among smokers who are aware of the dangers of tobacco, most want to quit. Counselling and medication can more than double a tobacco user’s chance of successful quitting,” says the WHO.

A 2019 report from the WHO also recommends “behavioural or pharmacological interventions” to help smokers quit.

“When a tobacco user visits a primary or specialised care service it presents an opportunity for the health care worker to offer and provide them with personalised counselling. Brief advice is a key means of motivating people who might not otherwise seek tobacco cessation support and encouraging them to quit, and as such is an essential component of tobacco cessation services,” the report says.

None of these resources from leading international health organisations list licking salt as a way to quit smoking. 

NIDA and the WHO both recommend counselling or medicine to help with withdrawal symptoms and the craving for cigarettes. – Grace Gichuhi


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