Snus is the aid that helps most people to quit smoking in Norway. This is according to a study recently published by researchers at the Norwegian Public Health Agency.
Snus, e-cigarettes, chewing gum, patches and prescription medicines. These are all smoking cessation products that are available to consumers. smokers in Norway who want to quit smoking. But how effective are the different tools, and how are they used by Norwegian smokers? Researchers at the Norwegian Institute of Public Health want to find out by analysing statistical data from 1424 people who have quit or tried to quit smoking in recent years.
Snus stands out in the statistics
About a quarter of the smokers in the study had never tried to quit. Among those who had tried, half did not use any tool at all in their last attempt. Compared to e-cigarettes, nicotine medicines and prescription drugs such as varenicline (champix), 'cold turkey' was associated with the same proportion of successful attempts as the use of the tools. Snus was the only thing that stood out in the statistics.
"Snus was the only aid that really had an effect. At the same time, the results indicate that access to many aids, whether they are medicines, e-cigarettes or stop-smoking apps, is important for more people to stop smoking," writes The researchers in the report
The researchers were surprised that neither traditional nicotine medicines nor e-cigarettes could be linked to more successful quit attempts in Norway. The results are contrary to large international studies.
"We have seen in previous studies, including Cochrane Reviews, that e-cigarettes have the potential to help significantly more people quit smoking, compared to, for example, nicotine medicines. We could not see such an association in Norway." The researchers write.
E-cigs difficult to access
The explanation may lie in how the availability of e-cigarettes looks like in Norway. E-liquid with nicotine is illegal to sell, and requires the user to import it themselves.
"Although nicotine liquids are relatively easy to purchase from abroad in online stores, the lack of physical availability may be a barrier that leads some of those who want to try e-cigarettes for smoking cessation to use nicotine-free liquids instead. This is especially true for individuals who mistakenly believe that nicotine is the most harmful ingredient in cigarettes," the researchers write.
Fear of nicotine
When it comes to traditional nicotine medicines, the researchers have a similar explanation, although so-called NRT products are openly available in Norway.
"NRT is the nicotine product recommended by health authorities as an effective cessation aid. However, despite ample marketing and high availability, with sales from grocery stores and pharmacies, our study found no association with smoking cessation. Low doses of nicotine have been reported as one of the limitations of NRT products as a substitute for cigarettes, which becomes apparent in real-world settings, without any behavioural support." the researchers write.