Researchers gave those cigarettes to smokers who were not intending to quit, and then observed changes in their behavior and asked them to respond to standard questionnaires to measure their level of addiction.
The people who smoked the cigarettes with the lowest level of nicotine for six weeks straight did show signs of addiction, but fewer signs than individuals who smoked cigarettes with higher levels of nicotine, according to the study.
“The court is setting aside a proven strategy on improving public health.
That prompted the question — what would be the impact on cigarette smokers of reducing the amount of tobacco in cigarettes?
In the largest published study to date, Donny showed that smokers given less potent cigarettes did indeed smoke less, and showed fewer signs of addiction, than smokers using conventional cigarettes.
This could be done through genetic engineering of the tobacco plant or chemical extraction after the fact — a similar process to decaffeinating coffee beans.
But even a 95 percent reduction might be more addictive for some than for others, given that different people inhale different amounts of nicotine even from the same cigarette, and process it differently in their bodies.
“Some people extract more nicotine out of a cigarette than others,” Donny said.
“Some people metabolize nicotine more slowly or quickly than others.
“They’d have to smoke so many more cigarettes to compensate, and it becomes too harsh, too hard on their systems,” Benowitz said.
Both Benowitz and Donny said that it’s important to make sure alternatives to cigarettes — read: electronic cigarettes — remain available to individuals who are reducing their nicotine intake from regular cigarettes, to make for a smoother transition.
In thinking about a standard, you want to be able to account for that variability.” Benowitz proposed the idea of reducing nicotine in cigarettes in a 1994 letter to the New England Journal of Medicine — but at the time, the FDA didn’t have the authority to regulate the level of nicotine in cigarettes.