Despite tremendous potential public health impact, little work has focused on development of evidence-based smoking cessation treatments for adolescents, including pharmacotherapies. No prior studies have explored the feasibility and safety of varenicline and bupropion XL, 2 potentially promising pharmacotherapies, as smoking cessation treatments in adolescents.
Treatment-seeking older adolescent smokers (ages 15–20) were randomized (double-blind) to varenicline (n = 15) or bupropion XL (n = 14), with 1-week titration and active treatment for 7 weeks. Structured safety, tolerability, and efficacy assessments (cotinine-confirmed 7-day point prevalence abstinence) were conducted weekly.
There were no serious adverse events. Two participants discontinued bupropion XL due to adverse effects, and none discontinued varenicline. Over the course of treatment, participants receiving varenicline reduced from 14.1 ± 6.3 (mean ± SD) to 0.9 ± 2.1 cigarettes/day (CPD, 4 achieved abstinence), while those receiving bupropion XL reduced from 15.8 ± 4.4 to 3.1 ± 4.0 CPD (2 achieved abstinence).
These preliminary results support the feasibility and safety of conducting adequately powered, placebo-controlled efficacy studies of varenicline and bupropion XL for adolescent smoking cessation.