Nicotine replacement therapy could help smokers quit gradually
Smokers who do not want to quit but are prepared to try to reduce their smoking are twice as likely to stop smoking in the long-term if they use nicotine replacement therapy (NRT), according to research published on bmj.com.
The research is the first of its kind to focus on sustained smoking abstinence using NRT for smokers who have no immediate plans to stop smoking.
Smoking is one of the greatest causes of illness and premature death in the world. Half of UK smokers try to stop every year but only 2-3% of them succeed. One of the reasons for this is that while the majority of smokers want to quit, only a minority feel ready to do so abruptly.
These smokers, say the authors, might have more success by following nicotine assisted reduction to stop (NARS) programmes, also known as "cut down then stop", "cut down to stop" and "cut down to quit".
The research team at the University of Birmingham, carried out a systematic review of seven randomised controlled trials that compared the outcomes of using NRT gum or inhalators to placebos.
The authors make it clear that most of the evidence comes from trials with regular behavioural support and monitoring, and it is unclear whether using NRT without this regular contact would be as effective.
This study is important because “it shows that treating a population of smokers not ready to stop means more of them stop.” The authors conclude that it is therefore important to consider how NARS can be incorporated into existing tobacco control programmes.