Real-World Effectiveness of Pharmaceutical Smoking Cessation Aids: Time-Varying Effects

Michael Chaiton, Lori M. Diemert, Susan J. Bondy, Joanna E. Cohen, Michael D. Fung, Bo R. Zhang, Roberta G. Ferrence

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

3 Scopus citations


Background: There are a limited number of studies that have examined the real-world effectiveness of smoking cessation aids and relapse longitudinally in population-representative samples. This study examines the association between use of nicotine gum, patch, bupropion, and varenicline and time to relapse as well as any changes in the association with increased length of abstinence. Methods: Data of 1821 current adult smokers (18+) making their first serious quit attempt were compiled from 4504 individuals enrolled in the Ontario Tobacco Survey, a representative telephone survey of Ontario adults, which followed smokers every 6 months for up to 3 years. Use of cessation aids at the time of initial report of a quit attempt was analyzed. A flexible parametric survival model was developed to model length of abstinence, controlling for potential confounders. Results: The best fit model found knots at 3, 13, 43, and 212 days abstinent, suggesting different rates of relapse in the periods marked by those days. Use of the patch and varenicline was associated with lower rates of relapse, but no positive effect was found for bupropion or nicotine gum. The effectiveness of the patch reversed in effect after the first month of abstinence. Conclusions: This study is one of few reports of long-term quitting in a population-representative sample and demonstrates that the effectiveness of some pharmacological cessation aids (the patch and varenicline can be seen in a population sample). Previous failures in real-world studies of the effectiveness of smoking cessation aids may reflect differences in the products individuals use and differences in the timing of self-reported cessation. Implications: While a large number of randomized controlled trials have shown the efficacy of many pharmaceutical smoking cessation aids, evidence of their effectiveness in observational studies in the real world is ambiguous. This study uses a longitudinal cohort of a representative sample of smokers to show that the effectiveness of pharmaceutical cessation aids can be demonstrated in real-world use situations, but effectiveness varies by product type and has time-varying effects.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)506-511
Number of pages6
JournalNicotine and Tobacco Research
Issue number4
StatePublished - Apr 1 2021

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Public Health, Environmental and Occupational Health


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