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Nicotine Gum OK for Gradual Quitters

Study Shows Nicotine-Replacement Gum Works Even If You Don't Quit Smoking Cold Turkey

Smokers Who Quit Gradually continued...

During the first four weeks of the study, the researchers evaluated the impact of simultaneous use of cigarettes and nicotine-replacement gum.

They found no difference in adverse outcomes among the heaviest nicotine users (who averaged 22 cigarettes a day and nine pieces of 4-milligram gum) compared to people who used less nicotine.

At the end of six months, smokers on active nicotine-replacement therapy were more likely to have stopped smoking than those who chewed the placebo gum.

Shiffman acknowledges that the success rate for all the study participants was low. But the 6% quit rate for the smokers who chewed the 4-milligram nicotine-replacement gum was roughly double that typically reported in studies evaluating smokers who try to quit without help.

Nicotine Gum 'Better Than Smoking'

The study did not examine nicotine gum use for longer than six months, but it is clear that many people stay on the gum or other forms of nicotine-replacement therapy for much longer.

New York University professor of medicine and smoking-cessation researcher Scott Sherman, MD, tells WebMD that the evidence suggests that long-term use of nicotine-replacement treatments is safe and "a whole lot better for you than smoking."

While nicotine is the agent that gets people hooked on cigarettes, other chemical toxins in cigarette smoke are the cause of lung cancer and other health effects.

But while long-term use of nicotine-replacement products appears safe, Sherman says there is less evidence that it is effective.

"It is not really clear if using nicotine gum or patches or even other forms of medication for a year instead of three months improves your chances of quitting smoking," he says. "We can't really tell people that they will be more likely to be a nonsmoker 10 years down the road if they chew nicotine gum for an extra year."

Sherman says that people who are trying to quit smoking typically use too little medication rather than too much. "A common mistake people make with gums and lozenges is that they wait until they feel symptoms, and that's too late."

Sherman and Shiffman offered other tips for stopping smoking:

  • Use medication. People who use nicotine-replacement therapies or other types of drugs approved for smoking cessation are twice as likely to quit successfully, Sherman says.
  • Get some support. Most states have smoking-cessation hotlines that can provide counseling and information for people trying to quit.
  • Recognize your smoking triggers and have a plan for dealing with them.

If your first attempt to quit smoking doesn't work, you're not alone. The average person who successfully gives up cigarettes had tried to quit unsuccessfully at least half a dozen times, Sherman says. "Rather than beat yourself up and feel defeated, these unsuccessful attempts should be viewed as learning opportunities."

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