July 14, 2008 -- Smoking-cessation drugs and many nicotine-replacement therapies are more than twice as effective at helping smokers quit than going it alone.
A new analysis of 69 studies comparing seven different smoking-cessation treatments shows six of the seven treatments were more effective than placebo in helping smokers quit the habit for at least six months to a year.
But researchers say smoking-cessation therapies are underused because of problems translating those results to the public and providing widespread access to the treatments.
"We are confident that the recommended treatments will substantially increase rates of smoking abstinence when given to smokers who wish to quit," researcher John Cunningham of Toronto's Centre for Addiction and Mental Health, says in a news release.
For example, Cunningham says these results suggest that offering free nicotine-replacement therapy to adults who want to quit smoking could provide major public health benefits.
Although the findings also favored the effectiveness of the nicotine inhaler over placebo, the results were not conclusive.
In a related article in the same journal, Canadian researchers randomly surveyed 825 smokers and asked them if they would be interested in receiving free nicotine-replacement therapy and how they would use it. Nearly 60% of smokers said they would be interested in receiving free nicotine-replacement therapy, and 94% of the interested smokers said they would use it to quit smoking for good.
In fact, researchers found smokers who were interested in quitting smoking for good were more interested in using nicotine-replacement therapy than those who planned to cut back or maintain their smoking habits.
Experts say these results suggest that new strategies to inform smokers who want to quit about their options may be needed to improve use of smoking-cessation therapies.
"Because of a powerful multinational tobacco industry, the need to prevent death and disability from tobacco-related illnesses will not disappear,” writes J. Taylor Hayes, MD, of the Mayo Clinic in a commentary in the same journal. "However, we have effective treatments to assist smokers at their attempts to live free of tobacco. The success of our efforts hinges on our ability to place these products in the hands of people who need them."