Patches don’t help pregnant quit

French researchers asked more than 400 women who smoked at least five cigarettes a day to try either a nicotine patch or a placebo.

Only 11 women – 5.5% – in the nicotine patch group quit smoking by the time they gave birth, compared with 10 women, or 5.1%, in the placebo group.

The average birthweight of the babies was about the same in both groups, but blood pressure was significantly higher among the nicotine patch users, the study showed.

Lead author Dr Ivan Berlin, a pharmacologist, said it was disappointing. The results show that drugs to help wean pregnant women off smoking do not work and “behavioural support” – help from counsellors or quit-smoking groups – remains essential, the authors said.

BMJ 2014; online 11 March