Reduced-nicotine cigarettes could help smokers quitOctober 1, 2015
A new study suggests that reducing the addictive nicotine in cigarettes helps people to smoke less and feel more motivated to quit -- a finding that hints at a new way for the federal government to reduce tobacco use.
The study answers a long-standing question about nicotine addiction and cigarette consumption, said Stanton Glantz, director of the Center for Tobacco Control Research and Education at the University of California-San Francisco, who wasn't involved in the new study.
For decades, public health experts have questioned the value of reducing nicotine levels, Glantz said. That's because no one knew if smokers would compensate for the low levels of nicotine per cigarette by smoking more of them.
In the study, researchers randomly assigned 780 adult smokers to use either their usual brand of cigarettes, other conventional cigarettes or experimental cigarettes with lower doses of nicotine. Conventional cigarettes have 15.8 milligrams of nicotine per gram. The experimental cigarettes had nicotine doses that ranged from 5.2 milligrams to 0.4 milligrams.
After six weeks, smokers given cigarettes with 5.2 milligrams of nicotine smoked just as much as those consuming their usual brands or conventional cigarettes. But people given cigarettes with 2.4 milligrams of nicotine or less smoked 23% to 30% fewer cigarettes a day, according to the study, published Wednesday in The New England Journal of Medicine.
Smokers given cigarettes with the lowest nicotine levels were twice as likely to try to quit compared to people given conventional cigarettes. None of the people in the study planned to quit smoking at the start of the study.
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