Smoking cessation therapy availability increases assisted quit attempts

July 27, 2000

Providing more treatment options to smokers, as well as increasing consumers' access to those options, increases the number of treatment-assisted quit attempts, according to a study published today by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) in the July 28 Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report.

The study determined the approximate number of quit attempts with a smoking-cessation product in the United States during periods corresponding to major changes in the availability and number of smoking cessation products.

"Most smokers undertake cessation attempts without the benefit of treatment, and such unaided quitting can result in one-year abstinence rates as low as an estimated 2.5 percent," said Saul Shiffman, Ph.D., one of the study's investigators. "With pharmacologic methods such as the nicotine patch and gum, a smoker can double his or her chances for success versus quitting without help."

Of the 48 million current adult smokers in the United States, approximately 70 percent (nearly 34 million) say they would like to quit smoking, but only 1.2 million smokers succeed each year in quitting permanently, according the CDC. Approximately 16 million smokers annually make a quit attempt of at least 24 hours. An additional 2 to 3 million attempt to quit but are unable to abstain for a full 24 hours, according to an analysis of the data from the Normative Aging Study.

According to the new study, the two largest increases in smoking cessation medication use coincided with the 1992 introduction of the nicotine patches and the 1996 over the counter (OTC) introduction of nicotine gum and patch. The first year of the OTC availability of the nicotine gum and patch resulted in almost a 150 percent increase in pharmacologically-assisted quit attempts. While use increased dramatically with the introduction of the prescription nicotine patch, this increased utilization was not maintained. However, the higher use of pharmacotherapies has been sustained since the OTC availability of nicotine gum and patch in 1996.

"The sustained increase of nicotine patches and gum use following their OTC availability may be attributable to smokers' more realistic expectations about the role of nicotine replacement therapy in quit efforts," said Dr. Shiffman. "This new attitude might be shaped partly by contemporary advertisements that portray cessation as difficult-, and nicotine replacement therapy products as aids, rather than complete answers."

In contrast, the introduction of two new prescription forms of nicotine replacement therapy (NRT), the nicotine nasal spray and oral inhaler, appeared to have had almost no impact on treatment utilization. The 1997 introduction of Zyban, a novel non-nicotine prescription medication, appears to have only modestly increased the overall number of pharmacologically assisted quit attempts. Nevertheless, the accompanying editorial suggests that based on the data presented, providing more pharmacological treatment options to smokers increases the number of treatment-assisted quit attempts.

Researchers also identified potential barriers to use of smoking cessation therapies, including reduced advertising/promotion, market fatigue with more established therapies, concerns about safety and costs of treatments, and limits on the demand for prescription NRT products when NRT is already available OTC.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), located in Atlanta, is an agency of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. The CDC promotes health and quality of life by preventing and controlling disease, injury and disability. The CDC prepares the Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report (MMWR) Series to report on the prevalence and effects of disease and illnesses in various populations in the United States.

SmithKline Beecham -- one of the world's leading health care companies -- discovers, develops, manufactures and markets pharmaceuticals, vaccines, over-the-counter medicines and health-related consumer products. For company information, visit SmithKline Beecham on the World Wide Web at

Carisa Strauss

Susan Brooks

Porter Novelli

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