Free Nicotine Replacement Therapy Improves Quitting Rates, Study Finds

Randomized controlled trial to assess comprehensive smoking cessation treatment benefits for smokers in IPA model HMOs

From 1997 to 2000, researchers at the University of California, Berkeley, School of Public Health, carried out a controlled trial to assess the costs and effectiveness of a one-year, comprehensive, smoking cessation treatment benefit in independent practice association/network-model health maintenance organizations (HMOs).

Researchers recruited an experimental group of 601 participants and a control group of 603 participants from large employers enrolled in one of two HMOs. All participants received self-help materials. In addition, participants in the experimental group could call a toll-free telephone number to order free nicotine replacement therapy (either the over-the-counter patch or gum) and to obtain a referral for free group counseling.

Key Findings

  • Offering smokers free, over-the-counter nicotine replacement therapy significantly increased quit rates, attempts to quit, and the use of nicotine gum and patch.

  • The researchers concluded that offering free nicotine replacement therapy was a cost-effective strategy for increasing quit rates, quit attempts, and use of the nicotine gum and patch.

  • Participants were much more likely to use nicotine replacement therapy than group counseling.

  • In both the experimental and control groups, participants who used Zyban were more likely to report having quit at six months.