Continuing to wear nicotine patches after smoking lapses promotes recovery of abstinence


Stuart Ferguson, School of Pharmacy, University of Tasmania, Private Bag 26, Hobart, Tasmania 7001, Australia. E-mail:; cc:


Aims  Smokers who lapse during a cessation attempt are at particularly high risk of relapse, so interventions to help smokers recover from lapses are urgently needed. Two recent studies have suggested continuing to use nicotine patches following a lapse may be a beneficial relapse prevention strategy. However, to date no study that uses approved doses of nicotine patches under real-world conditions has tested this hypothesis.

Design and setting  Clinical trial conducted across eight US study sites.

Participants and measurements  Using data from 509 subjects (240 active; 269 placebo) who lapsed during weeks 3–5 of treatment in a randomized, double-blind placebo-controlled trial of 21-mg nicotine patches, we examined whether active nicotine patch use improved the chances of recovering abstinence (7-day point-prevalence) at weeks 6 and 10.

Findings  Active patch use (versus placebo) increased the likelihood of recovery from a lapse both at 6 weeks [8.3% versus 0.8%; relative risk (RR) = 11.0, P < 0.001] and at 10 weeks (9.6% versus 2.6%; RR = 3.7, P < 0.001).

Conclusions  Continuing treatment to aid smoking cessation with active patches promotes recovery from lapses. Smokers should be encouraged to persist with patch treatment if they lapse to smoking.