The study which was published in the Journal of Cancer Epidemiology, Biomarkers and Prevention was lead by researchers at Waterloo University in Canada and funded by both the Canadian Cancer Society and Health Canada.
Researchers conducted an un-blinded study of 72 smokers between the ages of 18 and 65 years old. Participants were asked to smoke cigarettes of varying strengths over 4 weeks. During week one they smoked a regular strength of 1.2 milligrams to gather control data. Then, during weeks two, three and four they were switched to lower and lower levels of Nicotine with a switch to Quest Cigarettes, which is a light cigarette brand.
The point of the study was to test whether the desire for nicotine increased as participants reduced their intake of the deadly drug. The research results were attained through both physical and psychological markers. The smokers who took part had to provide breath and urine samples, plus answer questions at the end of each week.
The results found that participants smoked the same amount (both in cigarettes smoked and puffs taken) throughout the study. In addition, there were no level changes of carbon monoxide found in the breath of participants, and there wasn’t a difference in the amount of 1-hydroxypyrene (a common carcinogen which is found in cigarettes) in the urine of participants.
The study will add momentum to the US Food and Drug Administration’s 2009 mandate to reduce nicotine levels in cigarettes. Concerns on the mandate were initially raised with critics claiming that smokers would simply smoke more to compensate for the lower levels of the drug. In the same way that alcoholics tend to drink more light beer to feel satisfied.
The lead author of the study is David Hammond, an associate professor in the School of Public Health and Health Systems at the University of Waterloo. In summing up he said the opposite, “Smokers are unable or unwilling to compensate when there is markedly less nicotine in the cigarette and when the experience of smoking is far less rewarding.”
(Photo courtesy of Juan Pablo Colasso)