Patterns of over-the-counter nicotine gum use: persistent use and concurrent smoking

Addiction. 2003 Dec;98(12):1747-53. doi: 10.1111/j.1360-0443.2003.00575.x.


Aims: To examine the occurrence of persistent use (i.e. use beyond 12 weeks) and concurrent use of nicotine gum with cigarettes among consumers who purchase nicotine gum over-the-counter (OTC).

Design: Assessment of gum use was conducted in the context of a smoking cessation trial among smokers who purchased Nicorette gum and enrolled in the optional Committed Quitters smoking cessation program. Eligible participants were contacted by telephone 6 weeks and 12 weeks following their self-selected target quit date. Those who reported gum use at 12 weeks were contacted again at week 24.

Participants: A total of 2655 current smokers who purchased nicotine gum and enrolled in a clinical efficacy trial of the Committed Quitters program.

Measurements: Detailed information on smoking and gum use, including frequency of use, amount used and reasons for use was obtained at each of the three follow-up assessments.

Findings: At the 24-week assessment, 6% of participants reported current use of nicotine gum (i.e. persistent use). Those engaging in persistent use averaged 4.7 (SD = 2.5) days of gum use per week and 3.2 (SD = 3.5) pieces of gum per day. Sixty-six per cent of persistent users reported at week 24 that they were not currently smoking, and 67% of persistent users reported they were using gum to establish or maintain abstinence. At the 6-, 12- and 24-week assessments, 14%, 10% and 2% of participants, respectively, reported current use of nicotine gum and current cigarette smoking (i.e. concurrent users). Those concurrent users reported at the 12-week follow-up that they did so an average of 4.4 (SD = 2.1) days per week, that they chewed an average of 2.6 (SD = 3.5) pieces of nicotine gum per day and that they smoked an average of 8.7 (SD = 8.6) cigarettes per day.

Conclusion: Extended use of nicotine gum is rare. Concurrent use with cigarettes is uncommon. In both cases, the amount of gum use is small. OTC marketing of nicotine gum does not appear to have increased use contrary to labeling nor resulted in patterns of use that should warrant clinical or public health concerns.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Age Factors
  • Central Nervous System Stimulants / therapeutic use*
  • Chewing Gum*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Motivation
  • Nicotine / analogs & derivatives*
  • Nicotine / therapeutic use*
  • Polymethacrylic Acids / therapeutic use*
  • Polyvinyls / therapeutic use*
  • Smoking / psychology
  • Smoking Cessation / psychology
  • Smoking Prevention*
  • Tobacco Use Cessation Devices


  • Central Nervous System Stimulants
  • Chewing Gum
  • Polymethacrylic Acids
  • Polyvinyls
  • Nicotine