If your New Year’s resolution involves finally kicking that nasty cigarette habit, you may want to steer clear of nicotine gum and patches. A new study examining the effects of nicotine replacement therapies (NRTs) has found that the products don’t have any long-term benefits and that they may even backfire.
The study, which was published in the journal Tobacco Control on Monday, followed almost 800 adults who had recently quit smoking. After interviewing participants at intervals throughout the past decade about their attempts to quit, researchers determined that nicotine replacement products really didn’t make much of a difference in their outcomes.
"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 Hillel Alpert, lead author and research scientist at the Harvard School of Public Health, said in a press release.
For one subgroup of heavy smokers (defined as those who smoke within a half hour of waking), the products actually made things worse. In this group, smokers who used the products without counseling were two times more likely to relapse than heavy smokers who didn’t use the products.
Many doctors point to a lack of compliance as a reason for the findings. The New York Times,’ Benedict Carey, reports:
Doctors who treat smokers said that the study findings were not unexpected, given the haphazard way many smokers used the products. “Patient compliance is a very big issue,” said Dr. Richard Hurt, director of the Nicotine Dependence Center at the Mayo Clinic, who was not involved in the study.
Whether the relapse rates seen in the study were due to a lack of willpower or to faulty devices, researchers agree that nicotine replacement therapies, while often helpful, are certainly not a cure-all.