Do you like nicotine? Then the Food and Drug Administration has some good news for you! No, seriously: Yesterday the FDA announced that it's not a huge deal if you use a smoking cessation aid (or "nicotine replacement therapy," in the FDA's words) for longer than the recommended period, nor is it a big deal if you use a smoking cessation aid and smoke a cigarette at the same time.
Years of clinical research, the FDA says, have shown that "some warnings and limitations specified in the directions for use on the labels of these products are no longer necessary to make sure they are used safely and effectively to quit smoking." To that end
FDA is allowing the companies who make these OTC products to make several changes to the warnings and limitations in the directions for use on their labels to allow some flexibility on how they are used and for how long. These changes mean the following for consumers:
– There are no significant safety concerns associated with using more than one OTC NRT at the same time, or using an OTC NRT at the same time as another nicotine-containing product—including a cigarette. If you are using an OTC NRT while trying to quit smoking but slip up and have a cigarette, you should not stop using the NRT. You should keep using the OTC NRT and keep trying to quit.
– NRT users should still pick a day to quit smoking, and begin using the OTC NRT product on their "quit" day, even if they aren't immediately able to stop smoking.
– Users of NRT products should still use the product for the length of time indicated in the label—for example, 8, 10 or 12 weeks. However, if they feel they need to continue using the product for longer in order to quit, it is safe to do so in most cases. Consumers are advised to consult their health care professional if they feel the need to use an OTC NRT for longer than the time period recommended in the label.
None of this is news to folks who heretofore have, for reasons of both pleasure and weakness of will, mixed a fresh piece of Nicorette with a Parliament, or used Nicorette forever and ever. Writing on his blog, Reason contributor Jacob Grier calls the FDA's announcement a "sensible move," and wonders what it might mean for e-cigarettes.