Photo by David McNew/Getty Images.
Trying to quit smoking? You may want to think twice about slapping on a nicotine patch or chomping on a piece of nicotine gum.
A new study from the Harvard School of Public Health found that so-called nicotine replacement therapies (NRT) -- things like patches, gums, inhalers and nasal sprays -- do little to help smokers quit for good.
The Harvard researchers interviewed 787 adult smokers who'd recently quit, and checked in with them over three time periods: 2001-2002, 2003-2004, and 2005-2006. The participants included those who tried to quit alone, and those who did so with the help of patches, gum or other replacement therapies.
The researchers found that the number of relapses in each time period was about the same: one-third of participants started to smoke again. And there wasn't a difference between those who quit alone and those who had help. Worse still, the results suggest that heavy smokers using the patch or gum without professional guidance may actually be increasing their chances of a relapse, according to the AFP.
"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," lead researcher Hillel Alpert said in a statement accompanying the report. He added that his group's results contradict those of clinical trials showing the effectiveness of the nicotine replacement therapies likely because his study was based on real-world results from the general population.
As the New York Times notes, the NRT market is booming: sales rose to $800 million a year in 2007, from $129 million in 1991. NRTs have been available over-the-counter since 1997 and are covered by many state Medicaid programs.