Smoking is a leading cause of death and disability in New Zealand, with clear ethnic and social class differences. The majority of smokers regret having started, and increasingly seek help to quit.
In New Zealand the most common treatment to help people quit smoking is nicotine replacement therapy (NRT), which is low-dose nicotine (usually delivered by a patch that is stuck onto the skin). Nicotine is the product in tobacco that keeps people coming back for more, whilst it’s the tobacco smoke that causes the harm. Low-dose nicotine (delivered in a patch) helps the smoker manage the nicotine cravings experienced during the first few weeks of quitting smoking. Nicotine patches have been shown to be very effective at helping smokers quit and stay quit.
Some people in New Zealand have also started trying electronic cigarettes (e-cigarettes) to help them cut down the number of regular cigarettes they smoke or to help them quit smoking altogether. It is thought that e-cigarettes help smokers manage some of the habitual behaviours associated with smoking (such as the hand to mouth actions) whilst they are trying to quit. Exactly how much e-cigarettes help people quit is not really clear – especially if they have nicotine in them or if they are combined with nicotine patches. We want to find out.
We have started recruiting smokers for a community-based clinical trial to determine whether combining nicotine patches with e-cigarettes (with and without nicotine) can help more people quit smoking. The treatment could increase the number of smokers quitting, and greatly improve their health and prolong their life.