Smokers who are trying to gradually kick the butt can effectively to so with the help of nicotine gum, according a new study.
Nicotine gum has been in use for over 20 years to help smokers quit abruptly however, the new study suggests that smokers wanting to quit by gradual reduction can substantially increase their success by using nicotine gum to facilitate reduction and cessation.
The researchers looked at almost 3300 smokers in a double blind, placebo-controlled study.
The participants were allowed to choose between 2-mg and 4-mg doses of nicotine gum, with the higher doses generally being selected by heavier smokers.
Within each dose group, participants were then randomized to receive either the active gum or a placebo, yielding 4 approximately equal groups.
The researchers assessed initial 24-hour abstinence and 28-day abstinence, and participants were followed up at 6 months to determine overall success rates for quitting.
They found that the odds of smokers achieving 24-hour abstinence were 40 to 90pct higher using active gum compared to placebo, and 2 to 4.7 times higher for attaining 28-day abstinence.
Moreover, at the end of 6 months, while absolute quit rates were somewhat low, the odds of quitting were about 2 to 6 times greater for active gum users as for the placebo users, with a quit rate of 6pct in the 4-mg group.
"This is the first study to demonstrate that smokers wanting to quit by gradual reduction can substantially increase their success by using nicotine gum to facilitate reduction and cessation," said researcher Saul Shiffman.
"Nicotine gum helped smokers reduce smoking, achieve initial abstinence and maintain abstinence. The advantage of active nicotine replacement therapy (NRT) treatment is particularly evident for heavy smokers treated with the 4-mg nicotine gum, for which treatment increased the odds of quitting for 6 months sixfold.
This expands treatment options for the substantial proportion of smokers who prefer quitting gradually, who have relatively low chances of quitting and who have heretofore been implicitly excluded from the use of NRT to help them quit," he added.
The findings appear in American Journal of Preventive Medicine.