Nicotine patches no help for pregnant women who smoke

PARIS - Nicotine patches fail to help pregnant women to stop smoking, according to a study published by the British Medical Journal (BMJ) Tuesday.

Researchers in France asked more than 400 women who smoked at least five cigarettes a day to try either a nicotine patch or a dummy patch called a placebo.

Only 11 women - 5.5 per cent - in the nicotine patch group quit smoking by the time they gave birth, compared with 10 women, or 5.1 per cent, 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 scientists, led by Ivan Berlin, a pharmacologist at the Pitie-Salpetriere University Hospital in Paris, said they were disappointed.

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, they said.