The headlines may state “Nicotine Patches Don’t Work, ” but if you or a loved one is quitting smoking, don’t flush the patches just yet.Over five years, researchers out of the Harvard School of Public Health tracked 787 people attempting to quit smoking in three groups: people using a nicotine replacement therapy (in the form of patches, gum, inhaler or nasal spray) with counseling, those using a nicotine replacement without counseling and finally—those using nothing at all.Results revealed that people who used nicotine patches weren’t more effective at quitting smoking in the long term, compared to those who quit without a nicotine replacement.In no time, the articles calling nicotine patches futile ricocheted through the media. But that wasn’t exactly what the data showed.QUIZ: Is Your Lifestyle Healthy?What the data showed was that people who quit smoking using nicotine patches had just as high a return rate to smoking as people who quit cold turkey.Your method to quit smoking is a choice, and people who quit cold turkey may be fundamentally different than the type of people who chose to use nicotine replacements. It’s probable that those who quit cold turkey were less addicted to nicotine (they could quit without aids), so you would expect their return to smoking rate would be lower since they got off cigarettes with less effort. The fact that the cold-turkey quitters didn’t stay off more indicates nicotine probably has a benefit, or nicotine patches work—contrary to the headline.Either way, comparing those who chose nicotine therapy to those who chose to quit cold turkey is a bit like comparing apples and oranges. To truly draw conclusions the study would need to be replicated on quitters whose method was not self-selected.The point of nicotine patches is to treat the withdrawal symptoms that former smokers experience for the first six months of quitting, which dissipate after that time period. They are not meant to work long term. You need to arm yourself with multiple defenses against smoking in order to extinguish the fire forever. Unfortunately, people often get sporadic counseling, and use nicotine therapies on their own, usually for less than the recommended minimum of six weeks.More: Your Guide to Quitting SmokingIn Dr. Roizen’s own practice, he has helped more than 1,450 people quit smoking, and has observed that it seems much easier for patients to quit when they use nicotine patches; this confirms much research in the literature. If you quit cold turkey you succeed at quitting 2 to 5 percent; quitting with nicotine patches 5 to 10 percent; quitting with nicotine patches and the anti-craving pill 15 to 20 percent; quitting with nicotine patches, the anti-craving pill, and walking, 30 percent; and if you add to that another buddy who helps you quit (or an email friend as we practice), then the quit rate gets up towards 60 percent. Although there are still some returning to smoking, at least at two years the self-reported sustained smoke-free rate is over 50 percent.Why do I mention this? Because any article that makes it more difficult as it would be if you didn’t use nicotine patches and the anti-craving pill plus walking and a buddy, does not do a service to those who want to quit.We map out a comprehensive quitting plan in our books You: Staying Young (page 134) or You: The Owner’s Manual (pages 171-2) or free on the websites RealAge.com or DoctorOz.com. And if you want help with a sustained coaching program to help you quit smoking you can go to ClevelandClinic.org/tobacco or email: [email protected].