Pre-cessation nicotine replacement therapy: pragmatic randomized trial

Addiction. 2010 Aug;105(8):1474-83. doi: 10.1111/j.1360-0443.2010.02989.x. Epub 2010 Jun 7.


Aims: To determine the effectiveness of 2 weeks' pre-cessation nicotine patches and/or gum on smoking abstinence at 6 months.

Design: Pragmatic randomized controlled trial.

Setting: New Zealand.

Participants: Eleven hundred adult, dependent smokers who called the New Zealand Quitline between March 2006 and May 2007 for support to stop smoking were randomized to 2 weeks of nicotine patches and/or gum prior to their target quit day followed by usual care (8 weeks of patches and/or gum plus support calls from a Quitline adviser), or to usual care alone.

Measurements: The primary outcome was self-reported 7-day point prevalence smoking abstinence 6 months after quit day. Secondary outcomes included continuous abstinence, cotinine-verified abstinence, daily cigarette consumption, withdrawal symptoms and adverse events.

Findings: Six months after quit day 125 (22.7%) participants in the pre-cessation group and 116 (21.0%) in the control group reported 7-day point prevalence abstinence (relative risk 1.08 95% CI: 0.86, 1.35, P = 0.4, risk difference 1.7%, 95% CI: -3.2%, 6.6%). However, when pooled in a meta-analysis with other pre-cessation trials a moderate benefit of about a one-quarter increase in cessation rates was evident. There was no difference in adverse events between groups.

Conclusions: In this, the largest pre-cessation NRT trial to date, using NRT 2 weeks before the target quit day was safe and well tolerated but offered no benefit over usual care. However, in conjunction with previous pre-cessation trials there appears to be a moderate benefit, but not as large as that seen in most smaller trials.

Publication types

  • Meta-Analysis
  • Randomized Controlled Trial

MeSH terms

  • Administration, Cutaneous
  • Adult
  • Algorithms
  • Chewing Gum
  • Female
  • Hotlines
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Native Hawaiian or Other Pacific Islander*
  • New Zealand
  • Nicotine / administration & dosage*
  • Nicotine / adverse effects
  • Nicotinic Agonists / administration & dosage*
  • Nicotinic Agonists / adverse effects
  • Patient Acceptance of Health Care
  • Smoking / ethnology
  • Smoking Cessation / ethnology
  • Smoking Cessation / methods*
  • Smoking Cessation / statistics & numerical data
  • Smoking Prevention*
  • Statistics as Topic
  • Substance Withdrawal Syndrome / prevention & control
  • Treatment Outcome


  • Chewing Gum
  • Nicotinic Agonists
  • Nicotine