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“˜Nicotine-Free’ Cigarettes Help Smokers Quit

February 14, 2010

According to a new study, nicotine-free cigarettes might be as helpful for smoking cessation as nicotine lozenges.

The study, which appeared in the journal Addiction, showed that people who used the nicotine-free cigarettes before quitting were just as likely to be smoke-free after six weeks as those who used the lozenges.

The nicotine-free cigarettes, which actually have a tiny amount of nicotine in them, were more effective then low-nicotine cigarettes, noted Dr. Dorothy K. Hatsukami of the University of Minnesota Tobacco Use Research Center in Minneapolis.

Hatsukami and her research team compared the smoking habits and quitting rates of 165 middle-aged men and women who had smoked for an average of 15 years. They chose subjects that have tried to quit multiple times and were highly motivated to try again.

Fifty-three subjects were given nicotine-free cigarettes and fifty-two had been given low-nicotine cigarettes. Each group were supplied the cigarettes for six weeks. The remaining subjects used nicotine lozenges for six weeks.

Urine and lung tests were given to participants after the six week regimen. In the nicotine-free group 19 people remained smoke-free. 12 people in the lozenge group stayed smoke-free, and only 7 of the low-nicotine users were able to stop smoking. Though the groups all reported similar cravings, the nicotine-free subjects had lower levels of tobacco-related toxins in their system, and withdrawals seemed to be lessened.

Scientists were correct in their predictions that nicotine-free cigarette users were less likely to compensate their withdrawals with regular cigarettes, than those who used the low-nicotine cigarettes.

Although authors of the study note that the nicotine-free cigarettes are a potential cessation tool, the results from the small study are not enough to suggest that smokers should replace nicotine lozenges with nicotine-free cigarettes, Hatsukami told Reuters in an e-mail.

The conclusions of the study are limited as a third of the smoking group subjects, and about 50 percent of the lozenge group subjects, did not complete the six-week study.

Nicotine-free cigarettes have 0.05 milligrams of nicotine per cigarette, while low-nicotine cigarettes have 0.3 milligrams. Regular cigarettes, by comparison, can have as much as 1.4 milligrams of nicotine, while light cigarettes still have around 1.0 milligrams.

Reducing the amount of nicotine that smokers inhale to help them cut down has been a difficult process for scientists, who have concerns that smokers will just smoke more cigarettes to make up for the lack of nicotine they are getting. Scientists believe nicotine-free cigarettes will make that reality much less likely, as it would take too many cigarettes to get there.

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