Study: Cigarettes with ‘Very Low’ Nicotine Better than Patches

Virtually nicotine-free cigarettes could help heavy smokers to quit the habit, according to an Auckland research.

An Auckland University study has found it is possible to smoke your way to quitting by using virtually nicotine-free cigarettes, the New Zealand Herald reported.

Tobacco cigarette

A cigarette against the black background

While almost one in five (18 per cent) current smokers say they decided to quit smoking in response to advertising campaigns, 33 per cent say they actually light up in response to anti-smoking advertising and 29 per cent of smokers look the other way.

Heavily addicted smokers offered nicotine replacement therapy (NRT) and the cigarettes with hardly any nicotine have a higher success rate at quitting, than those given just NRT patches, gum or lozenges, the study noted.

“It’s an exciting finding,” lead researcher Dr Natalie Walker, of the university’s clinical trials research unit, told the Herald Monday night.

Participants who were undergoing intervention in the study smoked the low-nicotine Quest brand of tobacco cigarettes. They were free to smoke anytime with their six-week supply.

Dr. Walker said the smokers wound up weaning themselves off the cigarettes because Quest simply did not give the same satisfaction that regular tobacco gave the smokers. While it gave the same sensation in the sense that they were still smoking, the missing kick from regular tobacco eventually made the participants lose interest in smoking.

“Part of smoking is the behavioural component of putting something in their mouth and feeling the smoke in their mouth and feeling it come down into their chest – all that ritual around smoking. These cigarettes help deal with that component… The good thing about it is that people naturally stop using them … after six weeks, or even earlier for some people,” she said.

Dr Walker said the study was “a bit controversial, because people think, ‘How can you give people cigarettes to quit smoking, it doesn’t make sense’, but … these have such a very low level of nicotine.”

“They are equally as harmful as any other cigarette, except they are less addictive … but they are very clearly addressing that behavioural aspect,” Dr. Walker explained.

Not all low-nicotine cigarettes are commercially available to New Zealand smokers. With the results of Dr. Walker’s study out, there could be some changes in the existing policies.

The Herald reported it is part of the Government’s goal for New Zealand to be “smokefree” by 2025. To achieve this, the Health Research Council has awarded $5 million to research work which will investigate policies such as introducing low-nicotine, lower-tax cigarettes, and limiting and progressively cutting the amount of tobacco which can be sold, and any other strategies that could drive the heavy smokers away from their unhealthy habit.

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