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Cigarettes with Low Levels of Nicotine Cut Addiction Risk

Aug 23, 2014 08:23 AM EDT

University of Waterloo researchers have found that cigarettes with low levels of nicotine can reduce addiction risk.

The study challenges the idea that decreasing nicotine in cigarettes will lead to people using more cigarettes.

"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. "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."

The study was based on data from 72 participants. Researchers monitored participants' smoking habits when they used cigarettes with different levels of nicotine.

People in the study were gradually switched to cigarettes with lower levels of nicotine. Scientists found that despite being exposed to lower levels of nicotine, participants didn't smoke more cigarettes than they usually would have.

The three types of cigarettes used in the study were Quest 1, Quest 2 and Quest 3. They had an average nicotine content of 8.9, 8.4 and 0.6 mg, respectively. Regular cigarettes have 12 mg of nicotine.

"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 in a news release. "Overall, the impact of a less-addictive cigarette on reducing smoking uptake and cancer prevention is potentially massive."

The study is published in the journal Cancer Epidemiology. 

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