(As reported 2/1/99)
The list of nicotine replacements available on the market may be all too familiar to smokers trying to kick the habit: patches, gums, sprays, inhalers. If you're a smoker who wants to quit, you've probably tried them all.
Even when smokers use nicotine replacements, most soon return to cigarettes. But a new study says the key to quitting for good may be in combining nicotine replacements, reports CBS News Health Correspondent Dr. Emily Senay.
Researchers in Iceland asked a group of smokers to try quitting by using both a nicotine patch and a nicotine nasal spray. They used the patch and spray together for five months and then continued the spray alone for another seven months. Six years later, these smokers have been twice as successful at quitting than smokers who just used the patch. To qualify as a success, the smokers were not allowed to have a single puff.
The authors of the study, published in last week's British Medical Journal, think the combination works because it gives smokers more control and options. Patches may not always provide enough nicotine for a recovering smoker, but the nasal spray allows them to have an extra nicotine dose when they need it instead of struggling with the cravings and possibly smoking.
The study also shows that smokers may need to use a nicotine patch longer than currently prescribed. Right now, many patches are worn for three months. In this study, they were used for five months, giving users more time to wean themselves off nicotine.
Dr. Thorsteinn Blondal, who led the study, said most of the smokers who failed to quit relapsed in the second year, just after the nasal spray was taken away from them.
By itself, nicotine is not what causes lung cancer. In fact, nicotine occurs naturally in the body. Other substances found in cigarettes, including tar, irritate the lungs, causing emphysema and cancer.
While some doctors are concerned that smokers will become addicted to nicotine replacements, others says the potential side effects of these aids are far less than the effects of smoking. However, there is a small chance that nicotine can raise the heart rate, and researchers have yet to determine whether it may have an effect on fetal development or nursing.
Reported By Dr. Emily Senay