Treatment of adolescent smokers with the nicotine patch

Nicotine Tob Res. 2003 Aug;5(4):515-26. doi: 10.1080/1462220031000118559.


This study examined the effects of the nicotine patch on craving and withdrawal symptoms, safety, and compliance among adolescents. The secondary goal was to conduct a preliminary investigation of the effectiveness of the nicotine patch in helping adolescents quit smoking. The study design was a double-blind, placebo-controlled, randomized trial of the nicotine patch. The intervention also provided intensive cognitive-behavioral therapy and a contingency-management procedure. Participants (n=100) attended 10 treatment visits over 13 weeks. Compared with the placebo patch group, the active nicotine patch group experienced a significantly lower craving score and overall withdrawal symptom score (p=.011 and p=.025, respectively), as well as a time trend toward lower scores (p<.001) in craving only. Moreover, the nicotine patch appeared safe for adolescents to use. No differences by treatment group were found in experiencing adverse events, except that the participants in the placebo patch group reported more headaches than those in the active nicotine patch group. As another measure of safety, the overall mean salivary cotinine levels were significantly lower at 1, 6, 8, and 10 weeks postquit (all p<.05) compared with baseline levels, although these results were confounded by dropouts. Additionally, a significant number of participants were compliant with using the nicotine patch daily. Finally, point prevalence (7-day and 30-day abstinence rates) and survival analysis of participant abstinence indicated no significant differences between treatment groups. The results of this study suggest that the nicotine patch is a promising medication and a larger clinical trial of the nicotine patch among adolescents is warranted.

Publication types

  • Clinical Trial
  • Randomized Controlled Trial
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Administration, Cutaneous
  • Adolescent
  • Adolescent Behavior*
  • Adult
  • Cognitive Behavioral Therapy
  • Double-Blind Method
  • Female
  • Ganglionic Stimulants / administration & dosage*
  • Ganglionic Stimulants / pharmacology*
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Nicotine / administration & dosage*
  • Nicotine / pharmacology*
  • Patient Compliance
  • Placebos
  • Smoking / drug therapy*
  • Smoking Cessation
  • Substance Withdrawal Syndrome
  • Tobacco Use Disorder / drug therapy


  • Ganglionic Stimulants
  • Placebos
  • Nicotine