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Cigarette Smoking: Health Risks and How to Quit (PDQ®): Prevention - Health Professional Information [NCI] - Summary of Evidence


Drug Treatment and Smoking Cessation

Based on solid evidence, drug treatments, including nicotine replacement therapies (gum, patch, spray, lozenge, and inhaler), selected antidepressant therapies (e.g., bupropion), and nicotinic receptor agonist therapy (varenicline), result in better smoking cessation rates than placebo.

Description of the Evidence

  • Study Design: Evidence obtained from randomized controlled trials.
  • Internal Validity: Good.
  • Consistency: Good.
  • Magnitude of Effects on Health Outcomes: Nicotine replacement therapy treatments, alone or in combination, improve cessation rates over placebo after 6 months (RR, 1.58; 95% CI, 1.50–1.66).[5] Treatment with bupropion improves cessation rates over placebo after 6 months (OR, 1.94; 95% CI, 1.72–2.19).[6] Varenicline therapy treatment improves cessation rates over placebo after 6 months (RR, 2.33; 95% CI, 1.95–2.80).[7]
  • External Validity: Good.


  1. IARC Working Group on the Evaluation of Carcinogenic Risks to Humans.: Tobacco smoke and involuntary smoking. IARC Monogr Eval Carcinog Risks Hum 83: 1-1438, 2004.
  2. U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.: The Health Consequences of Smoking: A Report of the Surgeon General. Atlanta, Ga: U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, CDC, National Center for Chronic Disease Prevention and Health Promotion, Office on Smoking and Health, 2004. Available online. Last accessed September 26, 2013.
  3. Lancaster T, Stead L: Physician advice for smoking cessation. Cochrane Database Syst Rev (4): CD000165, 2004.
  4. Lemmens V, Oenema A, Knut IK, et al.: Effectiveness of smoking cessation interventions among adults: a systematic review of reviews. Eur J Cancer Prev 17 (6): 535-44, 2008.
  5. Silagy C, Lancaster T, Stead L, et al.: Nicotine replacement therapy for smoking cessation. Cochrane Database Syst Rev (3): CD000146, 2004.
  6. Hughes JR, Stead LF, Lancaster T: Antidepressants for smoking cessation. Cochrane Database Syst Rev (1): CD000031, 2007.
  7. Cahill K, Stead LF, Lancaster T: Nicotine receptor partial agonists for smoking cessation. Cochrane Database Syst Rev (3): CD006103, 2008.

This information is produced and provided by the National Cancer Institute (NCI). The information in this topic may have changed since it was written. For the most current information, contact the National Cancer Institute via the Internet web site at http:// cancer .gov or call 1-800-4-CANCER.

WebMD Public Information from the National Cancer Institute

Last Updated: September 04, 2014
This information is not intended to replace the advice of a doctor. Healthwise disclaims any liability for the decisions you make based on this information.
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