CNN Food and Health

The new, improved nicotine patch

Scientists test a new method to help smokers quit

October 9, 1995
Web posted at: 12:40 a.m. EDT

From Correspondent Al Hinman


DURHAM, North Carolina (CNN) -- Some 50 million Americans continue to smoke despite mounting warnings of the potential health risks of cigarettes. Many smokers know they should stop, but repeatedly fail to kick the nicotine habit.

Mickie Ruarke is one such life-long smoker.

"I smoke anywhere from 10 to a pack a day," she says.

Ruarke continues to smoke, even though she has chronic lung disease. Quitting, say the experts, is never easy. (28K AIFF sound or 28K WAV sound)

"It's extremely difficult for most smokers to kick the habit permanently on their own," says Jed Rose of Duke University and Durham, North Carolina's Veterans Administration Medical Center. "On any given attempt to quit, less than 5 percent -- one in 10 -- actually succeed."


Rose is committed to helping smokers break the habit. He helped develop the nicotine patch a decade ago.

But despite great fanfare, the patch has proved no "magic bullet." Its long-term success rate is less than 20 percent.

Still, Rose isn't giving up. Now he is testing a new patch.

"We've added to the nicotine patch a second drug called mecamylamine that blocks the actions of the nicotine in a cigarette," he explains.

Rose hopes his new "super" patch will make it easier for smokers to give up cigarettes.

"Cigarettes do not become so unpleasant that the smoker becomes ill," he says. "Rather, it's just that the usual enjoyment of smoking becomes diminished so cigarettes are not as pleasurable as they once were." (130K AIFF sound or 130K WAV sound)


Tests underway at Duke University and Durham's VA Hospital show that the new drug-and-nicotine combination can double the long-term success rate over the "old" patch alone.

"The cigarettes that I was smoking did not even taste like the cigarettes that I was smoking before the patch ..." says smoking cessation patient Laura Lee Sherman, who says she has stopped smoking. "It was not the same flavor." (105K AIFF sound or 105K WAV sound)

As long as people smoke, researchers say they'll keep looking for improved chemical aids to help kick the habit. But doctors say sheer will power remains the best way to quit.

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