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Lower Nicotine Levels did not Increase Cigarette Smoking

Update Date: Aug 22, 2014 03:57 PM EDT

Smoking is one of the leading causes of preventable death throughout the world. In order to reduce these rates, governmental officials have tried many different ways to get smokers to quit and to prevent others from starting. One method is to reduce the level of nicotine in cigarettes. However, experts have been concerned that the lower levels would lead people to smoke more. Researchers from the University of Waterloo set out to examine this link and found that smoking cigarettes with low levels of nicotine did not increase people's cigarette use.

"One of the primary barriers to reducing nicotine levels is the belief that individuals who continue to smoke will smoke more cigarettes in an effort to extract the same nicotine levels, thereby exposing themselves to greater amounts of toxic chemicals. Our findings suggest this is not the case," said Professor David Hammond, of the Faculty of Applied Health Sciences at Waterloo, and lead author on the paper according to the University's news release. "The smokers were unable or unwilling to compensate when there was markedly less nicotine in the cigarette and when the experience of smoking is far less rewarding."

In this study, the researchers recruited 72 adult smokers, who were instructed to switch to three different kinds of cigarettes that had varying levels of nicotine. The cigarettes, Quest 1, Quest 2 and Quest 3 had nicotine levels at 8.9, 8.4 and 0.6 mg respectively. A normal cigarette has around an average of 12 mg of nicotine. The researchers tracked the participants' puffing behaviors and number of cigarettes smoked. They also measured the levels of toxic chemicals in the smokers' bodies.

They found that the smokers did not compensate for the lower levels of nicotine by smoking more. Their levels of toxic chemicals did not change depending on which cigarette they smoked. The researchers concluded that creating reduced nicotine cigarettes has the potential of reducing cigarette addiction, possibly leading to smoking cessation.

"There is ample evidence from inside and outside the tobacco industry that major reductions in the nicotine content of cigarettes would result in a less-addictive product," said Professor Hammond. "Overall, the impact of a less-addictive cigarette on reducing smoking uptake and cancer prevention is potentially massive."

The study was published in the journal, Cancer Epidemiology.

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