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Free nicotine patches increase short-term smoking quit rates

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 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 2004 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, PhD, MPH, lead author of the study and an assistant professor in the Bloomberg School of Public Health's Department of Epidemiology.

The researchers completed the study from 1995-2003 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 nicotine 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.

Dr. Alberg explained that the ideal cessation program includes attending a counseling program, in addition to using pharmacotherapy products such as nicotine patches or nicotine gum. He said that, for those looking to quit smoking, it is also a good idea for them to discuss the be
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Contact: Kenna L. Lowe
paffairs@jhsph.edu
410-955-6878
Johns Hopkins University Bloomberg School of Public Health
15-Dec-2004


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