Nicotine patches branded a waste of time as study finds they don't help smokers quit long-term
Former smokers just as likely to relapse if they used nicotine replacement therapies to help them quit

Unsuccessful Nicotine replacement therapy was found to have no impact on quitting success in the latest study

Unsuccessful Nicotine replacement therapy was found to have no impact on quitting success in the latest study

Nicotine patches may not help smokers to stub out the habit, according to a new study.

Researchers found nicotine replacement therapies like patches and gum, were not effective in helping smokers quit long-term.

This was true even when NRTs were combined with counselling sessions.

The study was conducted by
researchers at Harvard School of Public Health (HSPH) and the University
of Massachusetts in the United States who are now calling for greater
regulation of which nicotine products can be sold over the counter.

Lead author Hillel Alpert, a research
scientist at HSPH, said: 'This study shows that using NRT is no more
effective in helping people stop smoking cigarettes in the long-term
than trying to quit on one’s own.'

The researchers followed 787 adult
smokers in Massachusetts who had recently quit smoking.

They were
surveyed over three time periods: 2001-2002, 2003-2004, and 2005-2006
and asked whether they had used a nicotine replacement therapy to help
them quit. If they had, they were asked what was the longest period of
time they had used the product continuously.

They were also asked if they had joined a quit-smoking programme or received help from a doctor, counsellor, or other professional.

The results showed that, for each time period, almost a third of recent quitters reported to have relapsed.

The researchers found no difference in relapse rate among those who used NRT for more than six weeks, with or without professional counselling. No difference in quitting success with use of NRT was found for either heavy or light smokers.

Mr Alpert said that even though clinical trials have found NRT to be effective, the new findings demonstrate the importance of empirical studies regarding effectiveness when used in the general population.

He added that using public funds to provide NRT to the population at large is of questionable value, particularly when it reduces the amount of money available for smoking interventions shown in previous studies to be effective, such as media campaigns, promotion of no smoking policies, and tobacco price increases.

Smoking cessation medications have been available over the counter for more than a decade.

Co-author Gregory Connolly, director of the Centre for Global Tobacco Control at HSPH, said: 'What this study shows is the need to approve only medications that have been proven to be effective in helping smokers quit in the long-term and to lower nicotine in order to reduce the addictiveness of cigarettes.'

The study was published online by the journal Tobacco Control.