Estimating the risks and benefits of nicotine replacement therapy for smoking cessation in the United States

Am J Public Health. 2010 Feb;100(2):341-8. doi: 10.2105/AJPH.2008.147223. Epub 2009 Dec 17.


Objectives: To compare potential population-wide benefits and risks, we examined the potential impact of increased nicotine replacement therapy (NRT) use for smoking cessation on future US mortality.

Methods: We developed a simulation model incorporating a Monte Carlo uncertainty analysis, with data from the 2005 National Health Interview Survey and Cancer Prevention Study II. We estimated the number of avoided premature deaths from smoking attributable to increased NRT use, before and after incorporating assumptions about NRT harm.

Results: We estimate that a gradual increase in the proportion of NRT-aided quit attempts to 100% by 2025 would lead to 40,000 (95% credible interval=31,000, 50,000) premature deaths avoided over a 20-year period. Most avoided deaths would be attributable to lung cancer and cardiovascular disease. After we incorporated assumptions about potential risk from long-term NRT, the estimate of avoided premature deaths from all causes declined to 32 000.

Conclusions: Even after we assumed some harm from long-term NRT use, the benefits from increased cessation success far outweigh the risks. However, the projected reduction in premature mortality still reflects a small portion of the tobacco-related deaths expected over a 20-year period.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Computer Simulation
  • Cost-Benefit Analysis
  • Humans
  • Monte Carlo Method
  • Nicotine / adverse effects
  • Nicotine / therapeutic use*
  • Risk
  • Smoking / mortality
  • Smoking Cessation*
  • Smoking Prevention*
  • Tobacco, Smokeless / adverse effects
  • United States / epidemiology


  • Nicotine