Effect on smoking cessation of switching nicotine replacement therapy to over-the-counter status

Am J Public Health. 2002 Mar;92(3):437-42. doi: 10.2105/ajph.92.3.437.


Objectives: This study examined whether the change in nicotine replacement therapy sales from prescription to over the counter (OTC) status affected smoking cessation.

Methods: We used the 1993-1999 Massachusetts Tobacco Surveys to compare data from adult current smokers and recent quitters before and after the OTC switch.

Results: No significant change over time occurred in the proportion of smokers who used nicotine replacement therapy at a quit attempt in the past year (20.1% pre-OTC vs 21.4% post-OTC), made a quit attempt in the past year (48.1% vs 45.2%), or quit smoking in the past year (8.1% vs 11.1%). Fewer non-Whites used nicotine replacement therapy after the switch (20.7% pre-OTC vs 3.2% post-OTC, P =.002), but the proportion of Whites using nicotine replacement therapy did not change significantly (20.6% vs 24.0%).

Conclusions: We observed no increase in Massachusetts smokers' rates of using nicotine replacement therapy, making a quit attempt, or stopping smoking after nicotine replacement therapy became available for OTC sale. There appear to be other barriers to the use of nicotine replacement therapy besides visiting a physician, especially among minority smokers.

Publication types

  • Evaluation Study
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Behavior, Addictive / drug therapy*
  • Data Collection
  • Drug Prescriptions / statistics & numerical data*
  • Drug and Narcotic Control*
  • Female
  • Ganglionic Stimulants / therapeutic use*
  • Humans
  • Interviews as Topic
  • Male
  • Massachusetts / epidemiology
  • Middle Aged
  • Nicotine / therapeutic use*
  • Nonprescription Drugs / supply & distribution
  • Nonprescription Drugs / therapeutic use*
  • Population Surveillance
  • Risk Assessment
  • Smoking Cessation / methods*
  • Smoking Cessation / statistics & numerical data


  • Ganglionic Stimulants
  • Nonprescription Drugs
  • Nicotine