Cut Out Most Nicotine in Cigarettes at Once, or Slowly Lower the Level?

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Dramatically reducing nicotine levels in cigarettes all at once would provide more health benefits overall than a gradual reduction, say researchers at the University of Minnesota at Minneapolis.

Their 20-week study was conducted in response to a proposed rule by the Food and Drug Administration that aims to reduce nicotine to minimally addictive levels in tobacco products sold in the United States. The proposal included a request for ideas about how this strategy could be implemented as part of a comprehensive tobacco plan.

The Minnesota study involved 1,250 smokers who weren’t actively trying to stop smoking. Study participants were either:

  • immediately switched to cigarettes with just 0.4 mg of nicotine per gram of tobacco
  • gradually switched over five months from cigarettes containing 15.5 mg of nicotine per gram of tobacco to those with only 0.4 mg or
  • continued smoking cigarettes with 15.5 mg of nicotine per gram of tobacco

According to the researchers, smokers who switched from regular cigarettes to cigarettes with very little nicotine experienced more health benefits, including less exposure to toxins, had less desire to smoke, smoked fewer cigarettes per day, and had more smoke-free days than those who smoked cigarettes with nicotine levels gradually reduced over the course of the study. However, the smoker who switched immediately to low-nicotine cigarettes also reported more nicotine withdrawal symptoms and had higher study dropout rates.

Sourced from: JAMA