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After an increase in cigarette taxes and implementation of smoke-free workplace legislation, the New York City Department of Health and Mental Hygiene, the New York State Department of Health, and the Roswell Park Cancer Institute undertook large-scale distribution of free nicotine replacement therapy (NRT). We did a 6 month follow-up survey to assess the success of this programme in improving smoking cessation on a population basis.


34,090 eligible smokers who phoned a toll-free quitline were sent a 6-week course of nicotine patches (2 weeks each of 21 mg, 14 mg, and 7 mg per day). Brief follow-up counselling calls were attempted. At 6 months after treatment, we assessed smoking status of 1305 randomly sampled NRT recipients and a non-randomly selected comparison group of eligible smokers who, because of mailing errors, did not receive the treatment. NRT recipients were compared with local survey-derived data for heavy smokers in New York City.


An estimated 5% of all adults in New York City who smoked ten cigarettes or more daily received NRT; most (64%) recipients were non-white, foreign-born, or resided in a low-income neighbourhood. Of individuals contacted at 6 months, more NRT recipients than comparison group members successfully quit smoking (33%vs 6%, p<0.0001), and this difference remained significant after adjustment for demographic factors and amount smoked (odds ratio 8.8, 95% CI 4.4-17.8). Highest quit rates were associated with those who were foreign born (87 [39%]), older than 65 years (40 [47%]), and smoked less than 20 cigarettes per day (116 [35%]). Those who received a counselling call were more likely to stop smoking than those who did not (246 [38%] vs 189 [27%], p=0.001). With the conservative assumption that every 6-month follow-up survey non-respondent continued to smoke, the stop rate among NRT recipients was 20%. At least 6038 successful quits were attributable to NRT receipt, and cost was 464 US dollars per quit.


Easy access to cessation medication for diverse populations could help many more smokers to stop.


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Nancy Miller, Thomas R Frieden, Sze Yan Liu, Thomas D Matte, Farzad Mostashari, Deborah R Deitcher, K Michael Cummings, Christina Chang, Ursula Bauer, Mary T Bassett, Effectiveness of a large-scale distribution programme of free nicotine patches: a prospective evaluation, The Lancet, Volume 365, Issue 9474, 2005, Pages 1849-1854,

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