Context: Young adult smokers have the highest smoking prevalence among all US age groups but are least likely to use evidence-based cessation counseling or medication to quit.
Objective: Use and effectiveness of nicotine patch were explored in a randomized trial evaluating smoking cessation interventions with this population.
Participants: Smokers aged 18 to 30 (n = 3094) were recruited through online and off-line methods and from telephone quit lines and analyzed.
Design: Smokers were enrolled in a pretest-posttest trial, and randomized to 1 of 3 cessation services.
Setting: Trial delivering counseling services by self-help booklet, telephone quit lines, or online expert system in the 48 continental United States.
Intervention: Smokers could request a free 2-week course of nicotine replacement therapy (NRT) patches from the project.
Main Outcome Measure: Follow-up surveys at 12 and 26 weeks assessed smoking abstinence, use of NRT, counseling, and other cessation medications, and smoking-related variables.
Results: Overall, 69.0% of smokers reported using NRT (M = 3.2 weeks) at 12 weeks and 74.8% (M = 3.3 weeks) at 26 weeks. More smokers who were sent the free nicotine patches (n = 1695; 54.8%) reported using NRT than those who did not receive them (12 weeks: 84.3% vs 41.9%, P < .001; 26 weeks: 87.6% vs 51.1%, P < .001). The use of NRT was associated with greater smoking abstinence at 12 weeks (P < .001) and 26 weeks (P < .05), especially if used for more than 2 weeks (P < .001). Smokers assigned to a self-help booklet or cessation Web site and heavier smokers were most likely to use NRT (P < .05), whereas those reporting marijuana use and binge drinking used NRT less (P < .05).
Conclusions: Many young adults were willing to try NRT, and it appeared to help them quit in the context of community-based cessation services. Strategies should be developed to make NRT available to this age group and support them in using it to prevent lifelong smoking.