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Stop smoking patch not only for adults

Unlike cigarettes, stop smoking nicotine patches are not for adults only. A new study finds they also help teenagers quit smoking.  The study, appearing in the August issue of the Journal of Consulting and Clinical Psychology, showed that teens who tried to quit smoking using nicotine patches had success rates similar to those of adults.

As far as short-term responses, teens who received treatment for smoking cessation achieved abstinence rates equal to adults.  This fact is encouraging because past literature addressing smoking cessation for teens has been discouraging. This short-term response may give us a foundation to help teens with longer-term quitting. 

Thomas Glynn, director of cancer science and trends for the American Cancer Society, said that 5 million adolescents in the United States currently smoke. Of those, he said, "about 70 percent say they want to stop."

He went on to say that for a long time it was assumed teens would have an easier time to quit smoking because they hadn't had the habit for as long. However, that's just was not the case, according to him.

Adolescents become addicted no differently than adults. Fairly quickly and in as little as several weeks, so we should not expect it to be any easier for them to quit.

For this study, Killen and his colleagues interviewed more than 500 teens who wanted to quit smoking. They excluded more than half for a variety of reasons, such as depression or no parental consent.

They ended up with 211 teens that smoked at least 10 cigarettes per day, and had been smoking for at least six months before the start of the study.

All of the teens included in the study had tried to quit smoking at least once before. One hundred and forty five teens were male, and all were from the San Francisco area.

The teens were assigned to one of two groups. One received the nicotine patch alone, and the other group received treatment with the nicotine patch and the antidepressant buproprion, which has been shown to help smokers quit.

The nicotine patch was given for eight weeks in a tapering dose, and the starting dose was dependent on the number of cigarettes smoked per day. Those on buproprion received treatment for nine weeks. Both groups also went to weekly counseling sessions.

At the end of 10 weeks, 28 percent of those using the patch alone had quit smoking, while 23 percent of those on both the patch and buproprion had quit.

After 26 weeks, however, 7 percent on the patch alone were still not smoking, while 8 percent on both medications were still abstinent. Killen noted that even those who went back to smoking were still smoking far less than they had been at the start of the trial.  Almost all the kids in the trial cut their smoking to a few cigarettes per day or per week.

The bottom line from this study, said Killen, is that "teenagers can be helped in quitting smoking.”  Teens can stop smoking, but they need help in doing so. It's no easier for them to do it on their own than it is for adults. And medications can help them.

Teens are not the only ones who have trouble maintaining long-term abstinence from smoking.  Another study in the same journal found adult women who used nicotine-replacement therapy to quit smoking had a harder time than men staying off cigarettes in the long run.  Between three and 12 months, women's abstinence rates dropped, and by a year, men were more likely than women to still be off cigarettes.

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