Smokers Should Not Be Discouraged By Quit Attempts That Don’t Work


Dr. Timothy B. Baker Interview with:
Timothy Baker, PhD
Professor of Medicine
University of Wisconsin-Madison School of Medicine and Public Health

Medical Research: What is the background for this study? What are the main findings?

Dr. Baker: Previous research showed that combination nicotine replacement (the nicotine patch plus the nicotine lozenge or gum) and varenicline are the most effective smoking cessation treatments available, yet they had never been directly compared with one another. This study set out to do that, and compare them with the nicotine patch.

The present study shows that three medications which were combined with coaching to quit smoking—a pill called varenicline (Chantix), the nicotine patch alone, and a combination of nicotine-replacement medications—all produced about the same abstinence rates among participants at 6- and 12-months after the quit attempt. We were surprised that the patch by itself produced about the same level of success as the other two more intensive medications.

Medical Research: What should clinicians and patients take away from your report?

Dr. Baker: The results suggest that the widely available, simple to use, nicotine patch can produce long-term smoking cessation rates that are similar to those produced by more intense treatments. However, it is vital to bear in mind that some previous studies found that varenicline and combination nicotine replacement products do produce higher abstinence rates than other smoking cessation medications. Our study by itself does not negate this body of earlier work, but it does raise important questions.

There is a vast research literature that shows that smoking cessation medications help people quit smoking. This paper suggests that it may not be necessary for many smokers to use a prescription medication or an especially intense medication in order to quit smoking successfully. Perhaps the most important question with regards to which medication a smoker should select is, which one will he or she use? There is a great deal of evidence that using a medication regularly is a key to its effectiveness–even if the smoker is having trouble quitting (for instance, is smoking occasionally).

So, the smoker’s commitment to using a medication as indicated, and actually making a quit attempt with it–those are key considerations. Also, smokers may wish to discuss their treatment options with their physician in order to decide which medication will work best for them. Smokers can also use the nationwide tobacco quitline at 1-800-QUIT-NOW to get additional help and information on quitting.

Medical Research: What recommendations do you have for future research as a result of this study?

Dr. Baker: It is unclear why the three medications used in our study produced similar effects. Smokers today are smoking fewer cigarettes on average than they did in the past. Smokers in our study smoked fewer cigarettes per day than smokers in many previous studies. There was some evidence in this study and in other research as well, that the more intensive medications such as combination therapy with the nicotine patch and lozenge work especially well with heavier or more dependent smokers. Therefore, some of the less nicotine-dependent smokers in our sample may not have benefited from the intensive medications. Researchers should conduct more head-to-head comparisons of different medications in today’s smokers.

Medical Research: Is there anything else you would like to add?

Dr. Baker: There are many smoking cessation medications available to smokers today. Smokers should try different medications if one does not work for them–and should use other quit smoking aids such as using the nationwide quitline, talking with their physician, and using on-line resources for quitting like the National Cancer Institute’s Smokers should not get discouraged by quit attempts that don’t work. The key is to try different approaches to quitting until one works for good. This could be by trying some of the best vapor pens to help quit. If you have transitioned from smoking to vaping, congratulations! We know it is massive step in the right direction and one that can benefit you and your health in the long term. When it comes to the idea of vaping, there are a number of flavours to choose from and a number of accessories that accompany one another, such as having to get a valyrian replacement for your device, if your previous one is no longer working or empty. It is best to do some research into this industry before committing to anything, especially if you are new. But the main thing is that whether you are trying to give up smoking or have done so already, you’re already one step in the right direction. Other avenues you can go down to help quit is by doing more exercise, chewing gum when you get the urge or trying a nicotine patch. There are countless ways to try to quit so when one of them fails you shouldn’t be discouraged. So you might find that using something like these nix sticks might be the best way for you to stop, however, other people might prefer using something else.


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Timothy Baker, PhD (2016). Smokers Should Not Be Discouraged By Quit Attempts That Don’t Work

Last Updated on January 27, 2016 by Marie Benz MD FAAD