Based on a new survey, sales of nicotine replacement have increased but are less effective than before. One can get nicotine replacement therapy (NRT) over the counter, without having to consult your doctor. On the face of it, this sounds like a good move. Make NRT more accessible and more people will use it, and more will quit smoking.
Researchers at the University of California, San Fransisco have analysed the California Tobacco Surveys from 1992, 1997 and 1999 to see what impact making NRT over the counter (in the mid 1990s) has had. They found an increase in the number of smokers trying to quit - from 38 per cent of smokers in 1992 to 60 per cent in 1999. Use of NRT increased three fold over this time - probably as it became easier to obtain.
But much of the increased use of NRT is down to light smokers (consuming fewer than 12 cigarettes a day) - a group for whom NRT is not effective. By 1999 smokers were as likely to quit whether or not they used NRT. The researchers say that when NRT was on prescription, the doctor could offer support counselling and prescribe appropriately to the smokers.