(HealthDay News) — Smokers are more likely to cut back or quit if they switch to cigarettes made from tobacco containing very low levels of nicotine, new research shows. The findings were published in the New England Journal of Medicine.

In this study, funded by the U.S. National Institutes of Health, 840 smokers at 10 different sites were asked to smoke either their usual brand or one of six other types of cigarettes containing various doses of nicotine. All of the smokers involved said they had no interest in quitting smoking anytime soon. Normal cigarettes contain about 15.8 mg of nicotine per gram of tobacco (mg/g), senior author Dorothy Hatsukami, Ph.D., associate director of cancer prevention and control for the University of Minnesota’s Masonic Cancer Center in Minneapolis, told HealthDay. Participants were given cigarettes containing that dose, as well as 5.2 mg/g, 2.4 mg/g, 1.3 mg/g and 0.4 mg/g. As a final alternative, people were given 0.4 mg/g cigarettes that also contained high tar.

After six weeks, the researchers found that people provided cigarettes with a nicotine dose of 2.4 mg/g or less smoked 30% fewer cigarettes per day, on average, compared with people smoking regular cigarettes. Smokers using lower-nicotine cigarettes also had less nicotine dependence, and experienced fewer cravings. People smoking cigarettes with 5.2 mg/g or more smoked an average of 21 cigarettes per day, which was about the same as people who kept smoking their own brand. But smokers with 0.4 mg/g cigarettes only smoked about 15 cigarettes a day. About 35% of people with 0.4 mg/g cigarettes reported an attempt to quit during the follow-up period, compared with 17% of people smoking normal-strength cigarettes.

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“In this six-week study, reduced-nicotine cigarettes versus standard-nicotine cigarettes reduced nicotine exposure and dependence and the number of cigarettes smoked,” the authors conclude.


  1. Donny, EC; Denlinger, RL; Tidey, JW; et al. N Engl J Med 2015; 373:1340-1349, October 1, 2015; doi: 10.1056/NEJMsa1502403.
  2. Fiore, M and Baker, T. N Engl J Med 2015; 373:1289-1291, October 1, 2015; doi: 10.1056/NEJMp1509510.