Current interventions fall short for smoking cessation

One reason that smokers have such difficulty quitting may be that their minds crave the sensory rewards of smoking just as much as their bodies crave the nicotine, according to a new study.

While drug companies keep producing new ways to curb smokers cravings, such as nicotine patches and chewing gums, none have addressed the sensory rewards of cigarette smoking, such as the feeling of smoke going down the throat and into the lungs, say the authors, who suggest that treating early-stage quitters with nicotine-free cigarettes may be an option.

"The emphasis on nicotine, as opposed to other constituents of tobacco, has obvious merit given the large body of evidence that the reinforcing effects of nicotine play a significant role in smoking. However, there is a growing body of evidence suggesting that other aspects of cigarette smoke, namely the sensory effects, also contribute to the maintenance of smoking," says Lisa H. Brauer, Ph.D., of the University of Minnesota School of Medicine and her associates. The research was conducted at Duke University and the Durham VA Medical Centers.

The majority of smokers, about 70 percent, report wanting to quit. Half of those smokers attempt to quit each year, but only 2.5 percent of all U.S. smokers actually succeed in overcoming their dependence, according to statistics from the American Lung Association.

In the analysis of 138 smokers, many subjects reported almost as much satisfaction and craving reduction from smoking cigarettes that had the nicotine removed as from smoking regular cigarettes. Interestingly, smokers who were established as more dependent were less likely to differentiate between the two types of cigarettes, compared with less dependent smokers. On average, men reported less of a difference between the nicotine-free and nicotine-containing cigarettes than did women.

"More dependent smokers rely more heavily on sensory cues than do less dependent smokers. In contr

Contact: Ann Johnson
Center for the Advancement of Health

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