Distributing free nicotine patches increased
participation in a Maryland smoking cessation program and
helped 27 percent more people stop smoking during the first
six months after quitting, according to researchers at the
Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health and the
Washington County (Maryland) Health Department. However,
the study authors found that long-term quit rates were not
affected by giving away patches at the beginning of the
cessation program. The study is published in the December
issue of Addictive Behaviors.
"Nicotine replacement therapy has really changed
tobacco control efforts in a good way. It is clear that if
smokers use nicotine replacement therapy longer, they have
a better success rate," said Anthony J. Alberg, lead author
of the study and an assistant professor in the Bloomberg
Department of Epidemiology.
The researchers completed the study from 1995 to 2003
at the George W. Comstock Center for Public Health Research
and Prevention in Washington County. They compared quit
rates and abstinence from smoking before and after free
nicotine patches were offered to smokers who participated
in the Stop Smoking for Life program. During the program,
study participants received six weeks of patches and four
weeks of group counseling, free of charge.
The Maryland Cigarette Restitution Fund Program
financed the nicotine patches used in the study. After the
researchers gave away the patches, they saw a 37 percent
increase in involvement in the smoking cessation program,
indicating free patches attracted more people looking to
stop smoking. They also reported a 27 percent increase in
short-term quit rates.
Alberg said that the ideal cessation program includes
attending a counseling program, in addition to using
pharmacotherapy products such as nicotine patches or
nicotine gum. He also said that it is a good idea for those
looking to quit smoking to discuss the best methods with
their doctor, who also can prescribe non-nicotine-based
drugs to help cessation attempts.
"We know that no matter how long smokers have smoked,
when they quit, it prolongs their lives. The message we'd
like to get to people is that if smokers have thought of
quitting, it is definitely worth trying," Alberg said. "The
good news from our study is that offering free nicotine
replacement patches attracts more participants to cessation
programs and increases short-term quit rates, which are
steps in the right direction."
The study authors were supported by grants from the
National Institute on Aging, National Cancer Institute and
National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences.
Bloomberg School co-authors include Ruth Stashefsky
Margalit, Alyce Burke and Sandra C. Hoffman. Co-authors
from the Washington County Health Department are Kimberly
A. Rasch, Nell Stewart, Jo Ann Kline, Paula A. Ernst and