In the 2000 movie Bounce, Gwyneth Paltrow's character,
Abby, explains that she really isn't a smoker at heart, but has started puffing
on cigarettes to help her get off the nicotine gum to which she's become
addicted. The line invariably gets a laugh. But for people who feel that they
really have become hooked on nicotine gum, Abby's quirky observation may hit
too close to home.
In fact, 1.5-2 million Americans try the nicotine-laced gum
each year (it was originally introduced in the U.S. in 1984). And while many,
thanks to the gum, have successfully kicked the tobacco habit, some seem to
have weaned themselves from one nicotine habit only to pick up a new (albeit
less risky) one.
Quitting smoking is never easy. But a growing number of smoking cessation aids make it easier than ever for smokers to break their addiction to nicotine.
Research suggests that medications and nicotine replacement therapies can double and sometimes even triple the chances that a smoker will successfully quit. Some of these treatments also help to minimize weight gain while quitting -- an important plus for many smokers who want to kick the habit.
With a growing number of options available, doctors...
Most users of nicotine gum -- now sold over-the-counter under
the Nicorette brand as well as several generic names -- see it as a short-term
measure. GlaxoSmithKline, marketers of Nicorette, advises people to "stop
using the nicotine gum at the end of 12 weeks," and to talk to a doctor if
you "still feel the need" to use it. But that guideline hasn't kept
some people from chomping on it for many months and even years. In an addiction forum on the
Internet, one gum user posted a familiar message describing her 10-year-long
habit of chewing between 9 and 11 pieces of Nicorette per day, and asking for
"any suggestions as to how to get off the gum."
In a recent report evaluating data collected by ACNielsen,
researchers concluded that 5-9%of nicotine gum users relied on it for longer
than the recommended three months. About half that many were chewers for six or
Nevertheless, if there are serious health risks from this kind
of chronic gum chomping, they haven't been identified yet. "I've
encountered people using the gum for 15 years," says John Hughes, MD,
professor of psychiatry at the University of Vermont in Burlington, and
spokesperson for the Society for Research on Nicotine and Tobacco. "And
their main complaint is the cost of the gum." The price tag for using
Nicorette gum is about the same as a pack-and-a-half-a-day smoking habit.