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Nicotine Patches


August 1994

A study in the June 22 issue of the Journal of the American Medical Association reported that the nicotine patch is effective in helping a quarter of smokers quit (Michael C. Fiore, M.D. Ph.D., Steven F. Smith, Ph.D., Douglas E. Jorenby, Ph.D., Timothy Baker, Ph.D., "The Effectiveness of the Nicotine Patch for Smoking Cessation, p. 1940-1947; Gina Kolata, "Nicotine Patch Works For 25% Trying to Quit," New York Times, June 22, 1994, A14). Researchers found that smokers who use the patch are more than twice as likely to quit smoking for at least six months as are those who were given placebo patches.

One quarter of smokers who used the patches were still abstaining six months later. In contrast, only about one-tenth of those who used placebo patches were not smoking after six months. Each year more than 4 million of the nation's 50 million smokers use the patches in an attempt to quit smoking.

Until recently the effectiveness of the patches was uncertain. Dr. Richard D. Hurt, the head of the Nicotine Dependence Center at the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minn., said that even though most smokers did not quit after using the nicotine patch, the new analysis shows that the patch was still the most effective stop-smoking aid.

The study, by Dr. Michael C. Fiore, the director of the Center for Tobacco Research at the University of Wisconsin, also found that the patch need not be used as long as its makers recommend. Also, although the patch makers say that the patch must be combined with counseling to be effective, Dr. Fiores found that counseling made little difference in the rate of those who quit smoking.