Low nicotine cigarettes

The University of Auckland released:

Nicotine reduction, such as very low nicotine cigarettes, has huge benefits and few potential harms, according to a new study from the University of Auckland.

“Cigarette continues to devastate the health and lives of smokers resulting in an urgent need to reduce rates in New Zealand and many other regions of the world,”
says study co-author, Professor Chris Bullen who is director of the University’s National Institute for Health Innovation.

“One way to reduce smoking is to make it less addictive by greatly reducing how much nicotine is in the tobacco people smoke,” says Professor Bullen

Researchers from the University of Auckland and Universities of Pittsburgh and Minnesota in the USA, showed that reducing the nicotine content of cigarettes has the potential to produce huge benefits with minimal harm.

“The public health impact could be enormous and help New Zealand attain its Smokefree 2025 goal,” according to the study in the leading journal Tobacco Control.

It is the nicotine that is the addictive element of smoking, but not the nicotine that does the most harm.

Research into the potential of low nicotine cigarettes is a good thing. But if people are already smoking, they would be less likely to be satisfied I suspect with low nicotine cigarettes. Could be useful for those starting off smoking, but can you stop them getting higher nicotine cigarettes without a big rise in the black market?

The abstract of the article is:

Large reductions in nicotine content could dramatically reduce reinforcement from and dependence on cigarettes. In this article, we summarise the potential benefits of reducing nicotine in combusted tobacco and address some of the common concerns. We focus specifically on New Zealand because it may be ideally situated to implement such a policy.

The available data suggest that, in current smokers, very low nicotine content (VLNC) cigarettes decrease nicotine exposure, decrease cigarette dependence, reduce the number of cigarettes smoked per day and increase the likelihood of contemplating, making and succeeding at a quit attempt. New smokers would almost certainly be exposed to far less nicotine as a result of smoking VLNC cigarettes and, consequently, would probably be less likely to become chronic, dependent, smokers.

Many of the concerns about reducing nicotine including compensatory smoking, an exacerbation of psychiatric symptoms, the perception that VLNC cigarettes are less harmful, and the potential for a black market are either not supported by the available data, likely mitigated by other factors including the availability of nicotine-containing e-cigarettes, or unlikely to offset the potential benefit to public health.

Although not all concerns have been addressed or can be a priori, the magnitude of the potential benefits and the growing evidence of relatively few potential harms should make nicotine reduction one of the centrepieces for discussion of how to rapidly advance tobacco control. Policies that aim to render the most toxic tobacco products less addictive could help New Zealand attain their goal of becoming smokefree by 2025.

I tend to think reduced harm products are part of the solution, rather than trying to ban smoking. Low nicotine products may well be part of that.

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