Healthy living * Quit smoking

Effectiveness of nicotine patches questioned

Effectiveness of nicotine patches questioned No better than will power, study finds

Nicotine patches are no more effective than will power alone in helping smokers kick the habit, even when combined with counselling, a study has found.

Other types of nicotine replacement therapy such as gums, inhalers or nasal sprays were also found to be ineffective at preventing former smokers from relapsing, according to research.

Researchers from Harvard School of Public Health and the University of Massachusetts tracked 787 former smokers in Massachusetts who had recently quit for a five year period.

The former smokers were surveyed three times during the study period and questioned about whether they had used any nicotine replacement therapy (NRT) products, including nicotine patches, gum, inhalers and sprays, and if they had joined a quit smoking program or had help from a counsellor or other professional.

Nearly a third of the recent quitters had started smoking again at the time of each survey, the study found. The researchers found no difference in relapse rates among quitters who had who used NRT for any length of time and those who did not. This was also true for NRT used in combination with counselling.

The study also found that heavy former smokers who used NRT without counselling were twice as likely to relapse than those who quit smoking without using NRT.

"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," said Dr Hillel Alpert, who led the study.

Study co-author Dr Lois Biener said the use of public money to fund NRT was of "questionable value," as it means less money is available for other more effective smoking intervention policies.

The study is published online in the journal Tobacco Control.

This article was published on Tue 10 January 2012

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