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A 14c pill that triples chance of quitting cigs

A nicotine substitute which can be bought online for 14c more than triples a smoker's chances of quitting for at least a year, research has shown.

Tabex, which contains the active ingredient cytisine, is obtained from laburnum seeds.

Experts believe the drug is as effective as conventional stop-smoking treatments.

But despite four decades of use in eastern Europe, the pills are unlikely to be available on prescription in the UK for another two to three years.

Professor Robert West, of Cancer Research, said he expected to see a flood of internet orders for Tabex once news about the drug got out.

"It's been available in central and eastern Europe for more than 40 years, we have safety data on millions of people, and we know it's effective, but it's not licensed in Britain," he said.

"People can make their own choices. A licence is not a licence to buy, it's a licence to market. There's nothing illegal about buying this drug online, but there's always the risk that you might not get what you expect."

The Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency (MHRA), said: "People are advised that they should take prescription-only medicines after an appropriate consultation with their GP."

The trial, involving 740 patients, showed that people who wanted to stop smoking were 3.4 times more likely to succeed with Tabex than with a "dummy" placebo tablet.

Participants took between two and six pills per day for 25 days.

After treatment, 8.4pc of those given Tabex were able to avoid smoking for a year compared with 2.4pc of the placebo group.

The low overall success rates reflected how hard it was even for motivated smokers to quit, said the researchers.