Nicotine Replacement to Reduce Cigarette Consumption in Smokers Who Are Unwilling to Quit: A Randomized Trial


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Abstract

The objective of this study was to assess whether nicotine replacement therapy, administered in a real-life situation, could reduce cigarette consumption in smokers who were not prepared to quit smoking. Daily smokers of more than 20 cigarettes per day who had no intention to quit smoking in the next 6 months were recruited from the general population and randomly assigned to either a 6-month treatment of nicotine (choice among a 15-mg nicotine patch, a 4-mg nicotine gum, a 10-mg nicotine inhaler, or a combination of these, N = 265), matching placebo products (N = 269), or no intervention (N = 389). Products were sent to participants by mail. Education was limited to a booklet. Of 923 participants, 879 (95%) were followed up after 6 months. Mean baseline consumption was 30 cigarettes per day in all groups. At 6 months, cigarette consumption decreased by a median of 10 cigarettes per day in the nicotine group, 7.5 in the placebo group, and 2.5 among controls (p < 0.04 for all pair-wise comparisons). Smoking cessation rates were low (2%–4%) and did not differ significantly between groups. Quit attempts were less frequent among controls (21%) than among the nicotine (28%, p = 0.04) and placebo (27%, p = 0.08) subjects. In conclusion, nicotine replacement therapy helped smokers reduce their cigarette consumption and maintain this reduction over 6 months, but a large part of this reduction was attributable to a placebo effect. Nicotine treatment for smoking reduction had no detectable impact on smoking cessation.

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