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Benefits of Nicotine Gum
'May Be Placebo Effect'

LONDON (Reuters Health) - Smokers who chew nicotine gum to help them quit may do just as well with ordinary chewing gum, a small new study suggests.

Psychologists at the University of Glamorgan in Pontypridd, Wales have shown that conventional gum is just as good at reducing cigarette cravings. Their findings suggest much of the benefit from nicotine gum may be the so-called placebo effect--where smokers feel better simply because they expect the gum to have an effect.

``We were pretty surprised at the results,'' said Dr. Gareth Davies, a lecturer in psychology who led the research project. ''There was pretty much no difference between the two groups.''

The UK government announced earlier this year that nicotine replacement therapy--including patches, gum and spray--would be widely available on the National Health Service as part of a bid to cut smoking-related illnesses. Consumers can also now purchase these products over the counter at pharmacists and in some high-street shops.

Ministers took the action based on research showing that nicotine replacement therapy doubles smokers' chances of successfully giving up.

Nicotine gum works by delivering a small amount of nicotine into the body in order to provide smokers with the kick they get from cigarettes but without the damaging effects of smoke.

Although previous studies have shown the gum is effective, they have not compared it to ordinary chewing gum.

Davies, from the department of humanities and social sciences at the University of Glamorgan, recruited 45 smokers who smoked at least 15 cigarettes a day for the study.

The smokers were split into three groups and given nicotine gum, ordinary chewing gum or nothing at all during a 4-hour period in which they were deprived of cigarettes. Each volunteer then filled out a special questionnaire designed to measure the strength of their cravings--the higher the score, the stronger their yearning.

The results, presented at a recent British Association of Psychopharmacology meeting in Harrogate, Yorkshire, showed that those who chewed nothing had the highest marks, but that the nicotine gum and chewing gum groups both scored the same.

``Nicotine gum and a placebo gum are both equally effective at reducing acute craving for cigarettes,'' the researchers concluded. ``The findings suggest that while nicotine gum appears to be effective in reducing acute cravings, much of this may be a placebo effect.''

Davies told Reuters Health, ``We could not draw any conclusions from why there was no difference. There is evidence that sometimes eating something sweet can reduce cigarette cravings.''

A spokeswoman for Pharmacia and Upjohn, a pharmaceutical firm that manufactures nicotine gum, said there was hard evidence from over 80 trials that nicotine replacement therapy--including gum--is effective.

She said a year-long analysis of multiple studies by the Cochrane group--a team of researchers who produce evidence-based studies for the NHS--had shown abstinence rates of 17% with nicotine gum, compared with just 10% in control groups.

Reference Source 89


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