Study Shows Smokers Cling to Old Fears About the Health Effects of Smoking Cessation Treatments

Quitters Are More Interested in Treatment Methods When Educated

Jul 27, 2011, 08:00 ET from GlaxoSmithKline Consumer Healthcare

PARSIPPANY, N.J., July 27, 2011 /PRNewswire/ -- Nearly half of all smokers in the United States attempt to quit at least once per year, yet the majority of these efforts fail.(1) One factor contributing to the low annual rate of successful cessation is that the majority of quit attempts are made without evidence-based treatment such as nicotine replacement therapy (NRT).(1) Despite doubling a smoker's chance of quitting,(1) cessation aids are still infrequently used.(1) Findings from a study appearing in a recent issue of the journal Addictive Behaviors demonstrate that there are widely held misperceptions about the health effects of using NRT, and that correcting these misperceptions may increase NRT use and thereby reduce smoking rates.(1)

The study, which was fielded in partnership by GlaxoSmithKline Consumer Healthcare (GSK) and Legacy®, reported that smokers are misinformed about the safety and efficacy of smoking cessation aids.(1) Specifically, 93 percent of smokers did not know smoking while wearing the nicotine patch does not cause heart attacks.(1) In addition, 76 percent of smokers did not know nicotine patch, gum and lozenge are not as addictive as cigarettes.(1) Further, 69 percent of smokers did not know NRT products are not as harmful as cigarettes.(1)

However, the study found that education could increase smokers' consideration of NRT use.(1) Specifically, more than half of those who were interested in quitting reported they would be more likely to use NRT if they were shown accurate safety information.(1)

"The data indicate a need to further inform smokers about the methods that can effectively help them quit," said Saul Shiffman, Ph.D., researcher on the study and professor in the departments of psychology and pharmaceutical science at the University of Pittsburgh and senior scientific advisor at Pinney Associates, which provides consulting services to GSK. "Of particular note, 84 percent of respondents requested feedback on their incorrect answers in the survey, suggesting smokers want information regarding quitting and are interested in learning about the safety and efficacy of cessation strategies."

Smokers' NRT Safety and Efficacy Knowledge:

Information regarding the safety and efficacy of NRT as reported in the analysis was commonly inaccurate.(1) Consider the following:

  • Only 32 percent of respondents knew the nicotine patch, gum and lozenge do not cause cancer.(1)
  • Fully 70 percent of respondents were not sure or incorrectly thought NRT therapies are designed to make quitters feel sick if they slip in their quitting plan.(1)
  • Almost 70 percent of respondents did not know smoking cessation products containing nicotine are not as harmful as cigarettes.(1)
  • More than three-fourths of respondents incorrectly responded that smokers who use NRT are just as likely to fail as people who quit without assistance.(1)
  • Only about half of respondents knew NRT can double a smoker's chance of quitting versus placebo.(1)
  • More than 79 percent of respondents did not know smoking cessation therapies can help smokers quit long-term, as opposed to short-term.(1)

"These findings represent a tremendous public health opportunity," said Jane Allen a researcher on the study and senior research associate at Legacy. "If we can better communicate with smokers about the safety of NRT, we may be able to increase NRT use and – as a result – increase successful, long-term quitting."

Many smokers need help to quit successfully. NRT products, such as Nicorette® gum and lozenge and NicoDerm®CQ® patch, are recommended as first-line treatments for smoking addiction in the U.S. and can reliably increase long-term smoking abstinence rates and double a smoker's chances of quitting over using nothing to aid in their quit attempt.(2)  These FDA-approved medications are proven safe and effective to help smokers quit.(2)

For helpful information about quitting and to connect with other smokers interested in quitting, there are several online resources that can help:,,,, and

About the Survey

The analysis published in the journal Addictive Behaviors, included a survey of 900 men and women adult smokers in the U.S., and was fielded in July 2007 by Richard Day Research through an online panel, screening for adults age 18 and over who smoke cigarettes every day.(1) The data were weighted to adjust for age, ethnicity and gender using estimates from the 2006 National Health Interview Survey.(1) The "average" respondent in the survey was 43 years of age and smoked for an average of 16 years, smokes 20 cigarettes per day and has tried to quit three times in the past (only 16 percent of respondents have never tried to quit).(1)

About Legacy®

Legacy® is dedicated to building a world where young people reject tobacco and anyone can quit. Located in Washington, D.C., the national public health organization helps Americans live longer, healthier lives. Legacy develops programs that address the health effects of tobacco use, especially among vulnerable populations disproportionately affected by the toll of tobacco, through grants, technical assistance and training, partnerships, youth activism, and counter-marketing and grassroots marketing campaigns. The foundation's programs include truth®, a national youth smoking prevention campaign that has been cited as having contributed to significant declines in youth smoking; EX®, an innovative public health program designed to speak to smokers in their own language and change the way they approach quitting; and research initiatives exploring the causes, consequences and approaches to reducing tobacco use. The American Legacy Foundation was created as a result of the November 1998 Master Settlement Agreement (MSA) reached between attorney generals from 46 states, five U.S. territories and the tobacco industry. Visit

About GlaxoSmithKline Consumer Healthcare

GlaxoSmithKline Consumer Healthcare is one of the world's largest over-the-counter consumer healthcare products companies. Its more than 30 well-known brands include the leading smoking cessation products, Nicorette® and NicoDerm®CQ®, and Commit®, as well as many medicine cabinet staples -- alli®, Aquafresh®, Sensodyne®, and TUMS® -- which are trademarks owned by and/or licensed to GlaxoSmithKline Group of Companies.

About GlaxoSmithKline

GlaxoSmithKline – one of the world's leading research-based pharmaceutical and healthcare companies – is committed to improving the quality of human life by enabling people to do more, feel better and live longer.  For company information visit:

Disclosure: GlaxoSmithKline Consumer Healthcare funded the underlying study that this manuscript is based on, and provided financial support to Dr. Ferguson, Mr. Gitchell, Dr. Shiffman, Mr. Sembower and Dr. Rohay for the preparation of the manuscript itself. Dr. Shiffman and Mr. Gitchell are consultants for GSK and work for GSK on an ongoing basis. The sponsor reviewed the manuscript, but had no role in its drafting. Dr. Shiffman and Mr. Gitchell also have an interest in a venture to develop a new nicotine replacement medication.

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(1) Ferguson, Stuart et. al. Addictive Behaviors. Providing accurate safety information may increase a smoker's willingness to use nicotine replacement therapy as part of a quit attempt.  2011.

(2) Fiore MC, Jaen CR, Baker TB, et al. Treating Tobacco Use and Dependence: 2008 Update. Clinical Practice Guideline. Rockville, MD: U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. Public Health Service. May 2008.

SOURCE GlaxoSmithKline Consumer Healthcare