People who want to quit smoking may have better luck by toughing it out on their own than by joining a stop-smoking program.

A recent study that analyzed data from a 1986 survey of 13,000 smokers by the Department of Health and Human Services found that those who quit on their own were nearly twice as successful as those who used organized programs.

But cessation programs, which attract about 10 percent of those who try to quit, play a "critical role" in treating heavier smokers who have tried to quit and failed, according to Michael C. Fiore, an internist at the University of Wisconsin at Madison.

"The average cigarette smoker takes about two or three attempts to quit smoking. Even if they fail the first time, they need to be encouraged because, as this report shows, ultimately they can succeed," said Fiore, lead author of the report published recently in the Journal of the American Medical Association.

Of those who managed to quit, 47.5 percent did so on their own, compared to 23.6 percent who enrolled in stop-smoking programs.

Fiore and his colleagues also found that successful quitters tended to be better educated, while those who relapsed tended to be younger.

The researchers estimated that fewer than 10 percent of smokers who try to quit each year succeed. In 1986, 1.3 million of the 17 million who tried to stop smoking succeeded, the study found.

Success apparently bore no relation to gender or to how many cigarettes per day are smoked, the survey found. Those who smoked fewer than 25 cigarettes daily had a 44 percent success rate, while those who smoked more than a pack per day reported a 45.5 percent success rate.