The health benefits of quitting smoking are well documented, but in recent years there has been concern that some stop smoking products may have serious cardiovascular risks.
However, researchers from the US and Canada who looked at 63 clinical trials involving 30,508 people, say that's not the case. They found serious heart events didn’t increase with nicotine replacementgums and patches or the smoking cessation drugs varenicline or bupropion. In fact, bupropion actually appeared to protect against serious heart events.
Study co-author Dr Edward Mills says in a press release: "Undoubtedly, the benefits of quitting smoking outweigh any potential risks from smoking cessation therapies."
Amy Thompson, Senior Cardiac Nurse at the British Heart Foundation, comments in an email: "We know that getting help to stop smoking doubles your odds of successfully quitting. Some smokers are concerned about side-effects linked to medicines and treatments on offer, but this research shows that the benefits of these therapies far outweigh the risks.
"Stopping smoking is the single best thing you can do for your heart health - giving up will dramatically reduce your risk of coronary heart disease and stroke."
Some side effects
The researchers did find that nicotine replacement gum and patches temporarily increased the likelihood of minor heart symptoms such as a rapid or irregular heartbeat.
"These more minor risks are well known to clinicians and usually pass with time," says Dr Mills. "They occur most often when people are taking nicotine replacement therapy and smoking at the same time, which is a bad idea."
Previously, the researchers found that combination nicotine replacement therapy, wearing a patch and using nicotine gum when there is the urge to smoke, may be more effective but lead to more side effects than the gum or patch alone.
Most patients in the analysis were relatively healthy, so the results may not be true for everyone.
Dr Mills says: "It’s possible that the risk factors might be different in people with multiple diseases. Patients should discuss with their healthcare provider any potential risk factors that they may have developed from their smoking history. For patients who have chronic lung disease or other associated cardiovascular risks, clinicians should determine which smoking cessation aid to use by their risk profiles."
Amy Thompson says: "If you’re thinking of quitting smoking and don’t want to go it alone, make an appointment with your GP to discuss the support available to you."
Circulation: Cardiovascular Events Associated with Smoking Cessation Pharmacotherapies: A Network Meta-Analysis
Smoking Cessation:Benefits versus Risks of Using Pharmacotherapy to Quit
British Heart Foundation
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