Offering smokers free nicotine patches or intensive counselling via an NHS helpline does nothing to help them quit, according to a government-funded study.
Giving people extra packages of support would have no effect on the number of smokers who stop, a trial of different interventions showed.
It follows data released last August which showed that while more people in England are trying to quit with NHS help, success rates have fallen.
The new study, funded by the Department of Health and the UK Centre for Tobacco Control Studies, is published online in the British Medical Journal (BMJ).
Researchers from the University of Nottingham, which is home to the Centre for Tobacco Control Studies, split 2,600 smokers into four groups.
The first received standard support in the form of NHS Stop Smoking Services advice, letters, emails, text messages and access to a helpline.
The second group received the same support but were also offered free nicotine replacement therapy (NRT) in the form of a 21-day supply of patches.
The third group received “proactive support” in the form of standard support plus extra counselling sessions and messages from helpline staff.
The fourth group received the same proactive support as the third group but with added free nicotine patches.
Data was collected one month and six months after the participants had agreed to quit.
The result showed that, overall, 19% of the 58% of people who could be contacted at six months said they had managed not to smoke, and this was backed up with breath tests.
Those whom the researchers were not able to contact were assumed to still be smoking.
The study found no significant difference in success rates between those people offered different types of supportive counselling, or between those given nicotine replacement therapy.
Some 18.2% of those given proactive support had quit compared with 19.6% of those who did not receive this support.
Overall, 17.7% of smokers offered the patches stopped smoking, compared to 20.1% of those not offered them.
Even one month after setting a quit date, no significant differences were found between the groups.
The authors concluded that offering people extra telephone counselling and free NRT through a helpline cannot be recommended.