Safety and efficacy of the nicotine patch and gum for the treatment of adolescent tobacco addiction

Eric T. Moolchan, Miqun L. Robinson, Monique Ernst, Jean Lud Cadet, Wallace B. Pickworth, Stephen J. Heishman, Jennifer R. Schroeder

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

140 Scopus citations


Objectives. To determine the safety and efficacy of the nicotine patch and gum for adolescents who want to quit smoking. Design. Double-blind, double-dummy, randomized, 3-arm trial with a nicotine patch (21 mg), nicotine gum (2 and 4 mg), or a placebo patch and gum; all participants received cognitive-behavioral group therapy. Setting. Inner-city, outpatient clinic on the East Coast. Subjects. Thirteen- to 17-year-old adolescents who smoked ≥10 cigarettes per day (CPD), scored ≥5 on the Fagerström Test of Nicotine Dependence, and were motivated to quit smoking. Intervention. Twelve weeks of nicotine patch or gum therapy with cognitive-behavioral therapy, with a follow-up visit at 6 months (3 months after the end of treatment). Main Outcome Measures. Safety assessed on the basis of adverse event reports for all 3 groups, prolonged abstinence, assessed through self-report and verified with exhaled carbon monoxide (CO) levels of ≤6 ppm, in intent-to-treat analyses, and smoking reduction (CPD and thiocyanate concentrations) among trial completers. Results. A total of 120 participants were randomized (72% white, 70% female; age: 15.2 ± 1.33 years; smoking: 18.8 ± 8.56 CPD; Fagerström Test of Nicotine Dependence score: 7.04 ± 1.29) from 1999 to 2003. Participants started smoking at 11.2 ± 1.98 years of age and had been smoking daily for 2.66 ± 1.56 years; 75% had at least 1 current psychiatric diagnosis. Mean compliance across groups was higher for the patch (mean: 78.4-82.8%) than for the gum (mean: 38.5-50.7%). Both the patch and gum were well tolerated, and adverse events were similar to those reported in adult trials. Changes in mean saliva cotinine concentrations throughout treatment were not statistically significant. Intent-to-treat analyses of all randomized participants showed CO-confirmed prolonged abstinence rates of 18% for the active-patch group, 6.5% for the active-gum group, and 2.5% for the placebo group; the difference between the active-patch and placebo arms was statistically significant. There was no significant effect of patch versus gum or gum versus placebo on cessation outcomes. Abstinence rates at the 3-month follow-up assessment were sustained but were not significantly associated with treatment group. Mean smoking rates, but not CO or thiocyanate concentrations, decreased significantly in all 3 arms but not as a function of treatment group. Conclusions. Nicotine patch therapy combined with cognitive-behavioral intervention was effective, compared with placebo, for treatment of tobacco dependence among adolescent smokers. Decreases in the numbers of cigarettes smoked appeared to be offset by compensatory smoking. Additional study of nicotine gum, with enhanced instructional support, is needed to assess its efficacy among adolescent smokers.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)e407-e414
Issue number4
StatePublished - Apr 2005
Externally publishedYes


  • Adolescent
  • Cessation
  • Nicotine gum
  • Nicotine patch
  • Smoking reduction
  • Tobacco
  • Treatment

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Pediatrics, Perinatology, and Child Health


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