Low-Nicotine Cigarettes Help Smokers Quit Without Withdrawal Symptoms
Making cigarettes 'considerably less addictive'
A large test of reduced-nicotine cigarettes finds that the products may help smokers kick the habit.
New research published Wednesday in the New England Journal of Medicine shows that smokers who use low-nicotine cigarettes don’t smoke more or inhale more deeply to get a bigger nicotine “buzz.”
For the study, 780 longtime smokers assigned by researchers to puff on cigarettes containing less than 15% of the nicotine in regular cigarettes saw their tobacco dependence drop as much as 20% after 6 weeks. Conventional cigarettes contain 15.8mg of nicotine per gram, while the doses in the experimental cigarettes given to participants ranged from 5.2mg to just 0.4mg.
After 6 weeks, smokers given cigarettes containing 5.2mg of nicotine smoked just as much as participants who smoked conventional cigarettes. But individuals who smoked cigarettes with 2.4mg of nicotine or less smoked 23% to 30% fewer cigarettes a day. 
Participants who smoked cigarettes with the lowest levels of nicotine were twice as likely to quit compared to the conventional cigarette smokers. Researchers say none of the study participants had any plans to quit smoking at the beginning of the study.
“The evidence is getting stronger that reducing nicotine reduces smoking and makes people less addicted to cigarettes and, in doing so, might make them more likely to quit,” said the study’s lead author, Eric Donny, a professor of psychology at the University of Pittsburgh.
Researchers were especially-encouraged to find that participants who use low-nicotine cigarettes showed “minimal evidence of withdrawal-related discomfort.” 
The experimental cigarettes were different from “light” cigarettes which have been on the market for decades. Light cigarettes use tobacco with regular nicotine levels and a vent system that tries to make it more difficult for smokers to inhale the drug. Research reports that smokers quickly learn how to manipulate them to inhale a satisfactory level of nicotine anyway.
“These cigarettes don’t have much nicotine in the tobacco itself, so no matter what the user does, it’s just not there to extract,” Donny says.
The team also found that participants were able to transition to low-nicotine cigarettes overnight. Donny says that the lack of withdrawal symptoms and ease of transition suggests smokers need not gradually reduce nicotine levels over time.
U.S. health officials had been fearful that reducing cigarettes’ nicotine content “would drive smokers to more dangerous habits,” but that reluctance may be drawing to a close.
“This is one of the most significant clinical studies related to tobacco done in decades,” said Matthew M. Myers, president of the Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids. “This study not only demonstrates that it’s possible to reduce addictiveness, but provides solid evidence of the level of nicotine needed to accomplish that goal.”
Myers added that the findings “should serve as a catalyst” for the Food and Drug Administration to consider limits on the nicotine content of smoked tobacco sold in the U.S. Though hopefully the effects of smoking will deter any new smokers of our time.
He says that lowering nicotine levels in cigarettes would make them considerably less addictive to the 3,200 American kids who try smoking for the first time each day.
 USA Today
Julie Fidler has written hundreds of articles on key world topics such as health, drugs, and law. She is also the author of Adventures in Holy Matrimony: For Better or the Absolute Worst. Oh, and she loves to take care of two ridiculously- spoiled cats in her free time.