Introduction: Nicotine replacement therapy (NRT) is commonly used to aid smoking reduction (SR) or in situations of enforced temporary abstinence (TA). National Surveys have suggested that in the general population of smokers, the use of NRT in these ways has little effect on cigarette consumption and that use of the nicotine patch is common. This study aimed to gain a better understanding of what might underlie this.
Methods: Semistructured telephone interviews were conducted with 36 smokers who reported that they were using NRT for SR and/or TA. Open-ended questions explored smokers' knowledge, beliefs, and experience of using NRT for SR and/or TA. Interviews were analyzed using a variant of framework analysis.
Results: Smokers reported using a variety of methods to reduce their cigarette consumption, including increasing the interval between cigarettes and attempting nondaily or social smoking. Smokers also modified how they smoked their cigarettes by trying to inhale less, not inhaling at all, or only smoking part of the cigarette. Nicotine patches appeared to be popular because they were discreet, easy to use, provided a prolonged effect, and had an established history. Smokers had little knowledge of the regulatory restrictions on the use of NRT.
Conclusions: Smokers used a wide variety of means of reducing smoke exposure without stopping completely, including ones that did not involve reducing consumption. Nicotine patches were considered convenient to help with this, and there appeared to be little awareness of regulatory restrictions on their use.