In an Amazing study by Benowitz, a controlled group of 135 smokers between the ages of 18 an 70 switched to cigarettes with tobacco that contains less nicotine. The aspect which is of great importance is that the group did not compensate by smoking more cigarettes and inhaling more tar and toxins.
Smokers’ nicotine intake declined progressively as the nicotine content of the cigarettes was reduced. Even as study participants took in less nicotine, their cigarette consumption and exposure to toxins and carcinogens in smoke, such as carbon monoxide and polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons, remained stable.
“Reducing the nicotine content of cigarettes does not appear to be harmful to smokers, as evidenced by no increase in cigarettes smoked per day and no increase in exposure to tobacco-smoke combustion products,” Benowitz said.
Earlier Low-Nicotine Cigarettes Featured Filters to Lower Intake
In studies of an earlier generation of so-called low-nicotine manufactured, commercial cigarettes, smokers compensated almost 100 percent, taking in much more nicotine and tar than predicted, according to Benowitz.
However, those cigarettes did not actually contain less nicotine, he said. They sported ventilated filters and porous paper to deliver less nicotine and tar. That worked well enough with smoking machines. But human smokers responded by taking larger, faster, more frequent puffs on the cigarettes, which allowed more nicotine and tar to get past the ventilation holes in the filters that were designed to limit intake.
Unlike the older generation, the low-nicotine cigarettes being evaluated in research today do in fact contain less nicotine. The reduction is achieved either by extracting nicotine from the tobacco, or by genetically engineering tobacco to reduce its nicotine content.
We now understand that lowering nicotine content in cigarettes over a period of time does not make the individual smoke more to compensate.
The next idea is to study the level of nicotine in a cigarette that is required to maintain addiction. Knowing these two facts will allow us to find out what is the ideal level to wean individuals off smoking and what time scale is necessary.