A new study shows that nicotine patches are a waste of time and money, as they are not better than willpower at helping smokers to quit.
In earlier clinical trials it was suggested that nicotine replacement therapy could double a smoker’s chances of giving up the habit.
However, the new study of 800 patients found patches made no difference to long-term quitting rates.
According to researchers, the earlier trials had failed to replicate “real-life” situations. They said success and relapse rates were similar whatever method smokers adopted.
The recent study – by the Harvard School of Public Health and the University of Massachusetts, Boston – investigated patients who gave up smoking between 2001 and 2006.
The study concluded: “The main finding is that persons who quit relapsed at equivalent rates, whether or not they used nicotine replacement therapy to help them in their quit attempts, in clear distinction to the results of randomized clinical trials.”
The results were the same for heavy and lighter smokers and whether counseling was or was not given.
Harvard’s Hillel Alpert said: “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.”
In an online report in the journal Tobacco Control, fellow author Lois Biener said the funding for NRT might be better spent on other interventions. In replacement therapy, patches, gum, nasal sprays or inhalers are used to supply nicotine to the bloodstream.
Further American research released yesterday suggests that nicotine patches can help improve memory loss among older people.
Non-smokers with failing brainpower who used patches for six months had a 46% improvement in their memory skills, according to a report in the journal Neurology about the study at Vanderbilt University School of Medicine in Nashville.
Previous research has suggested nicotine helps brainpower among Alzheimer’s sufferers.