Smoking Aids Do Help Quitting

Smoking cessation aids improved the odds of a person successfully quitting

/ Author:  / Reviewed by: Joseph V. Madia, MD

(RxWiki News) Not everyone is able to quit smoking cold turkey, and that’s okay. There are several available types of quit smoking aids that have been proven to work over the years.

A recent review looked at clinical trials involving over 100,000 smokers to see which methods were most effective in helping people quit smoking.

The results of the review showed that nicotine replacement therapies and prescription therapies helped people quit two to three times better than placebos (fake therapies).

"Don't hesitate to ask your doctor for help quitting."

Kate Cahill, BA, from the Department of Primary Care Health Sciences at the University of Oxford in the United Kingdom and senior researcher at the Cochrane Tobacco Addiction Group, led a review of current medical research into the effectiveness of smoking cessation aids.

Currently, there are two prescription medications on the US market and several nicotine replacement therapies available over-the-counter (OTC) to help people quit smoking.

The prescriptions are varenicline (brand name Chantix) and bupropion (brand names Zyban and Wellbutrin). OTC nicotine replacement therapies include nicotine gum, nicotine patches, nicotine inhalers and nicotine lozenges.

For this review, the researchers searched the Cochrane databases for clinical trials that tested the above-mentioned smoking cessation methods.

Any trials that tested the effectiveness of other possible smoking cessation aids, such as nortriptyline, which is approved in the US to treat depression, were also included in the review.

If smokers quit smoking and maintained abstinence from smoking for at least six months, the researchers considered the method a success.

A total of 267 studies involving 101,804 smokers were included in the review.

The results of the study found that both OTC nicotine replacement therapies and bupropion worked nearly twice as well as fake smoking cessation aids to help people quit. When tested head-to-head, nicotine replacement therapies and bupropion worked equally well to help people quit smoking.

Varenicline worked nearly three times as well as fake smoking cessation pills to help people quit smoking. Varenicline worked 1.6 times better than nicotine replacement therapies and 1.6 times better than bupropion at helping people quit.

In the 14 trials that tested varenicline, no increased risk for side effects were found. But previous studies have shown that varenicline has a high risk for side effects, such as irritated stomach, sleep trouble and heart problems. The authors of this study said that further research is warranted into the safety of varenicline.

A combination of two or more OTC nicotine replacement therapies worked as well as varenicline to help people quit smoking and worked better than a single nicotine replacement therapy alone.

Nortriptyline was twice as likely to help people quit smoking than a fake pill. The researchers noted that neither nortriptyline nor bupropion were shown to enhance the effects of nicotine replacement therapies compared to the use of nicotine replacement therapies alone.

“This review provides strong evidence that the three main treatments, nicotine replacement therapy, bupropion and varenicline, can all help people stop smoking,” Cahill said in a press release.

This study was published in May in The Cochrane Library.

The National Institute for Health Research provided funding for this project. No conflicts of interest were declared.

Reviewed by: 
Review Date: 
May 30, 2013
Last Updated:
August 8, 2013