Progressively lowering nicotine levels in cigarettes will not lead to quitting, points out a recent study conducted by the University of California, San Francisco (UCSF).
A team of researchers from UCSF looked at lowering nicotine levels as a means of quitting smoking, which was believed to be a promising method. And so, they gathered 135 subjects, and devided them into two separate groups. The first one received cigarettes with progressively lower nicotine content and the second one was the control group, whose subjects were asked to smoke a regular brand of cigarettes. Both groups were studied over the course of a 12-month period, as part of the first phase.
The subjects in the first group were provided with lower and lower nicotine levels, and the ones containing the lowest nicotine levels were smoked for the last seven months.
In the second phase of the study, all participants were assessed 12 months after the first phase was ended. Blood samples were collected and the researchers analyzed their cotinine leveles. Cotinine is a metabolite of nicotine that can be found in plasma and that reveals if a person has been smoking in the last few days and how much, as the level of blood cotinine is increased proportionally to the nicotine intake.
The study concluded that after 12 months, the subjects from the first group had cotidine levels similar to those from the second gropup, which reveals that they essentially returned to their former habits and nicotine levels.
As for those who actually managed to quit, they were about as many in the first group as they were in the second group. This has proven to the UCSF scientists that progressively lowering nicotine levels is not an efficient method of quitting smoking, or at least not used exclusively.
“We don’t know that very low nicotine cigarettes will not work to reduce nicotine dependence and enhance quitting”, explained lead study author Dr Neal Benowitz. However, they have proven that only reducing nicotine levels will not lead to promising results on itself. It remains to be seen if further research could link it to other quitting methods, so that together they might achieve better results.
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