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Teens Buy Nicotine Patches As Easily As Cigarettes

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Teenagers can purchase nicotine replacement therapy with relative ease, despite the fact that these products carry warnings saying they are meant for adults, according to new research.

U.S. investigators found that a 15-year-old girl was able to purchase nicotine replacement products like nicotine patches in 8 out of 10 attempts, without showing any proof of age. Unfortunately, research has shown that some teens “misuse” nicotine replacement products, either trying them when they don’t need to quit smoking, or using them while they are still smoking, study author Dr. Karen C. Johnson told Reuters Health. However, studies have shown that nicotine replacement therapy (NRT) is usually safe and unlikely to become addictive, and some teens may benefit from being able to purchase an NRT product if it can help them quit smoking, Johnson said. “If a smoking youth wanted to quit smoking by using NRT, with parental permission and supervision, I believe this would be appropriate use of the product,” Johnson said. According to the Archives of Pediatrics & Adolescent Medicine report, one quarter of U.S. high school students smoke, and more than half of these students say they want to quit. Currently, NRT carries U.S. Food and Drug Administration warnings that the products should not be sold to anybody under the age of 18. However, experts now agree that the products may be a safe option for some teen smokers who want to stop. To determine whether young smokers have access to NRT, Johnson colleagues at the University of Tennessee Health Science Center in Memphis observed a teen girl as she tried to purchase NRT at 165 different stores. During 8 out of 10 attempts, she was not asked a single question about her age, and walked away with the NRT product. Stores that contained cash registers that prompt workers to ask a buyer’s age and those that also sold alcohol were more likely to ask her about her age, and less likely to let her buy an NRT product. Johnson explained that store employees may be often unaware that NRT has warning labels saying the products should not be sold to minors. “I recommend that retail establishments consider training their staff to inquire about age for all age-regulated products, including NRT and cigarettes,” she said. Dr. William P. Adelman of the National Naval Medical Center in Bethesda, Maryland, who wrote an accompanying editorial, told Reuters Health that although the few studies of NRT use in teens suggest it is not harmful, that does not mean it is safe. Moreover, no studies have shown that NRT helps teens quit smoking, likely because many teens light up due to behavioral and social pressures, and not an addiction to nicotine, Adelman said. He added that experts should wait for evidence that suggests NRT actually works in teens before recommending it to this age group as a whole. “Making NRT widely available, and assuming it is safe and effective for teenagers before it is known to be the case, is not a wise course of action,” Adelman said. (Source: Archives of Pediatrics & Adolescent Medicine: Reuters Health: Alison McCook: March 2004: Medline Plus)

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Posted On: 6 March, 2004
Modified On: 3 December, 2013


Created by: myVMC