New Harvard University study claims nicotine patches may not help smokers quit smoking

“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.”

Studies found that nicotine replacement therapies (NRT – patches and gum) designed to help people stop smoking do not appear to be effective in helping smokers quit long-term, even when combined with counseling sessions.

Main author Hillel Alpert says, “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 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.

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 were asked whether they had used a nicotine replacement therapy in the form of the nicotine patch placed on the skin, nicotine gum, nicotine inhaler, or nasal spray to help them quit, and if so, 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, counselor, 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 counseling. No difference in quitting success with use of NRT was found for either heavy or light smokers.

Researchers 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.