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Nicotine-Reduced Cigarettes Could Boost Quitting

A gradual lessening of the drug may ease addiction, research suggests

WEDNESDAY, Nov. 14 (HealthDay News) -- Providing smokers with cigarettes of gradually decreasing levels of nicotine over a number of weeks can help cut their nicotine addiction, a U.S. study finds.

The study, conducted by researchers at the University of California, San Francisco, and San Francisco General Hospital Medical Center, included 20 adult smokers. They puffed on their usual brand for the first week of the study and then began a six-week program where they smoked cigarettes with steadily decreasing amounts of nicotine.

At the end of the six weeks, the smokers were free to start using their regular cigarette brands again, which most did. However, when checked a month later, they were smoking about 40 percent fewer cigarettes a day compared to when the study began.

The researchers also noted that about 25 percent of the smokers quit smoking entirely during the study.

The findings are published in the Nov. 14 issue of the journal Cancer Epidemiology, Biomarkers & Prevention.

"This study supports the idea that if tobacco companies were required to reduce the levels of nicotine in cigarette tobacco, young people who start smoking could avoid becoming addicted, and long-time smokers could reduce or end their smoking. This could spare millions of people from the severe health effects of long-term smoking," study team leader Dr. Neal Benowitz, professor of medicine, psychiatry and biopharmaceutical sciences, and chief, division of clinical pharmacology and experimental therapeutics at SFGH, said in a prepared statement.

Currently, the U.S. Congress is considering proposals to give the U.S. Food and Drug Administration authority to regulate tobacco products, including the reduction of nicotine levels in cigarettes.

More information

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has more about quitting smoking.

-- Robert Preidt

SOURCE: University of California, San Francisco, news release, Nov. 14, 2007

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