Background: In December 2009 and January 2010, the UK Medicines and Healthcare Products Regulatory Agency expanded the marketing license for a number of nicotine replacement therapies (NRTs) to include smoking reduction without an intention to stop completely. This study examined whether this was associated with a change in incidence of use of NRT for harm reduction (i.e., smoking reduction and/or temporary abstinence) and in smoking cessation activity.
Methods: Data were taken from 10,497 smokers who took part in the Smoking Toolkit Study, which involves monthly representative household surveys of adults aged 16+ in England. Incidence of use of NRT for smoking reduction and/or temporary abstinence and attempts to stop smoking in 2009 was compared with the 2 years following the expansion of the marketing license.
Results: Expansion of the license was not associated with an increase in incidence of NRT use for harm reduction, which was already substantial prior to the change. The odds of a quit attempt were lower in the second year following the license change relative to the year before, but there was no change in the success of quit attempts.
Conclusions: Expansion of the UK marketing license for NRT to include smoking reduction without the intention of quitting was not associated with an increase in use of NRT for this purpose. It was followed by a reduction in the incidence of quit attempts (but not their success) although this may have been a continuation of a pre-existing decline.