Our findings suggest that a substantial population of smokers would be willing to participate in public health initiatives to reduce the prevalence of smoking through the distribution of free nicotine replacement therapy. Furthermore, our results provide new information regarding what recipients would do with nicotine replacement therapy: many of the respondents in our survey said they would use it to quit smoking, continue to use it for as long as needed to quit smoking and begin use soon after receiving it. These responses provide confidence about the utility of mass distribution of nicotine replacement therapy.
As we expected, participants who intended to quit smoking were more interested in nicotine replacement therapy than those who intended to reduce or maintain their smoking. However, it is unclear why 42% of the respondents who intended to continue smoking the same amount said they would be interested in free nicotine replacement therapy. This finding perhaps reflected an eventual but not immediate intention to quit. Also interesting was our finding that prior use of nicotine replacement therapy predicted future interest in using it again, which could indicate 1 of 3 factors. First, prior users of nicotine replacement therapy are more positive about using it because they found it helpful in a past attempt to quit. Second, prior users may have a better knowledge of the expense associated with nicotine replacement therapy and thus be more appreciative of the opportunity to receive it free of charge. Finally, both past use and future interest could be driven by the respondents' general attitudes toward nicotine replacement therapy, such as whether it is helpful or dangerous.
The primary limitation of our study is that self-reports of intended behaviours do not always predict what people will actually do. Further research is needed to explore whether smokers who say they are interested in receiving free nicotine replacement therapy will actually consent to receiving it and use it to attempt to quit smoking.
This research has important policy implications. Our findings suggest that a substantial proportion of smokers are interested in nicotine replacement therapy and would agree to receive it free of charge as part of a public health initiative to reduce the prevalence of smoking. In addition, even smokers who have used nicotine replacement therapy in the past will most likely be receptive to recommendations by health professionals to use it as a way to successfully quit smoking.
@@ See related research paper by Eisenberg and colleagues, page 135, and related commentary by Ebbert and Hays, page 123