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Study evaluates reduced or low-nicotine cigarettes as a new way to quit smoking

Cigarettes without the addictive punch of nicotine may be the norm someday, if the Food and Drug Administration follows through on rule-making proposed last spring. But can reduced-nicotine cigarettes also help smokers quit? Moffitt Cancer Center researchers are studying that question, and are looking for volunteers to help.

Nicotine is the main component within tobacco cigarettes that initiates and maintains smoking addiction. Smoking cigarettes with substantially reduced nicotine can decrease smoking urges and satisfaction, which may improve the smoking cessation success rate.

The Tobacco Control Act of 2009 granted the Food and Drug Administration the authority to reduce nicotine within cigarettes. While federal regulation to reduce nicotine levels in cigarettes is pending, the availability of reduced nicotine research cigarettes presents a novel opportunity to examine their effectiveness as a smoking cessation tool.

David J. Drobes, PhD

Dr. David J. Drobes, Tobacco Research & Intervention Program

“Prior studies have shown that, even among smokers not attempting to quit, those who were given research cigarettes with very reduced levels of nicotine smoked up to 30% less than those given higher nicotine cigarettes. They also reported lowered levels of nicotine dependence, craving, and withdrawal. In theory, these effects should assist smokers who are attempting to quit,” said Dr. David Drobes, Principal Investigator of the Countdown study and Senior Member of the Tobacco Research & Intervention Program at Moffitt.

The Countdown study was created to test this form of smoking cessation treatment. The research team is recruiting 200 adult smokers in the Tampa Bay area to participate in the study. After an initial screening visit, participants will be given low nicotine cigarettes and will receive 6 weeks of individual counseling to help them quit smoking. After that, they will attend two follow-up visits over the next 6 months.

Dr. Drobes says it will take about three years to complete the study. If you are interested in participating you can visit the Countdown study website.