Researchers Find Health Risks of Nicotine Patches, Gum
and Lozenges Are Overstated
Article proposes new guidelines for proper use of quit-smoking aids
NEW BRUNSWICK — Misunderstandings and unnecessary safety concerns are keeping many smokers from effectively using nicotine patches, gum and lozenges to overcome their addiction to cigarettes and other tobacco products. In a surprising critique in the journal Addictive Behaviors, a team of 16 public health researchers from the United States and Canada present that assertion as part of a consensus statement targeting misperceptions and concerns about the safety and the correct use of nicotine replacement therapy (NRT).
“The warning language that accompanies NRT gives smokers the impression that the smoking cessation medicines are about as dangerous as their cigarettes,” said Dr. Jonathan Foulds, director of the Tobacco Dependence Program at the UMDNJ-School of Public Health and one of the article’s authors. “Nicotine patches, gum and lozenges do not cause cancer, emphysema or heart attacks, even for smokers who already have had heart attacks or heart disease. And using NRT does not create a new addiction. Smokers are already addicted to nicotine and NRT products deliver less nicotine than cigarettes.”
The article also debunks some currently recommended practices about the use of these products. Labels on most NRT products warn that these medicines should only be used for a period of 8 to 12 weeks, but using NRT for longer periods of time is far safer than smoking. According to the authors, “smokers may need to use NRT for several months or even years to stay off cigarettes.”
Dr. Foulds points out that the alternative is infinitely more dangerous. “Going back to cigarettes is not only dangerous, it’s deadly,” he said. “Quitting smoking is hard work and nicotine replacement products are safe to use for as long as it takes to kick the tobacco addiction. In fact, some individuals may need to use more than one NRT product at the same time to finally quit.”
The authors point out that some smokers, such as those who are pregnant or who are undergoing chemotherapy, should consult their health care providers before using nicotine replacement therapy. The entire article, which includes the detailed instructions on the best way to use nicotine patches, gum and lozenges, is available at: http://proyectovidanofume.org/publication.htm
The report is one product of a grant from the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation to Professor Lynn Kozlowski at University of Buffalo. Through a separate grant to Dr. Foulds from the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, key components of the report, including the advice for consumers, have been translated to Spanish. This project aims to provide culturally competent tobacco treatment for Latino smokers, whose rates of NRT use are among the lowest. The advice for smokers on the use of NRT in Spanish is available at:
Further information about the Tobacco Dependence Program can be found at:
To request an interview with Dr. Foulds, please contact Jerry Carey, UMDNJ News Service, at (856) 566-6171 or (973) 972-3000.
The University of Medicine and Dentistry of New Jersey (UMDNJ) is the nation's largest free-standing public health sciences university with more than 5,500 students attending the state's three medical schools, its only dental school, a graduate school of biomedical sciences, a school of health related professions, a school of nursing and its only school of public health, on five campuses. Last year, there were more than two million patient visits to UMDNJ facilities and faculty at campuses in Newark, New Brunswick/Piscataway, Scotch Plains, Camden and Stratford. UMDNJ operates University Hospital, a Level I Trauma Center in Newark, and University Behavioral HealthCare, a mental health and addiction services network.