Cancer epidemiology, biomarkers & prevention : a publication of the American Association for Cancer Research, cosponsored by the American Society of Preventive Oncology

Reduced nicotine cigarettes: smoking behavior and biomarkers of exposure among smokers not intending to quit.

PMID 25150282


The U.S. FDA has the authority to limit the nicotine content of cigarettes; however, there are concerns that reduced nicotine cigarettes will be smoked more intensely and, therefore, will increase exposure to toxic chemicals in smoke. This study examined changes in consumer behavior and exposure in response to cigarettes with substantially reduced nicotine content. Seventy-two adult smokers completed an unblinded trial of reduced nicotine cigarettes. Participants completed a 7-day baseline period during which they smoked their usual cigarette brand, followed by consecutive 7-day periods smoking cigarettes with progressively lower nicotine levels (0.6, 0.3, and 0.05 mg emission Quest cigarettes). Nicotine dependence and withdrawal, smoking behavior, and biomarkers of exposure were assessed for each 7-day period. Significant reductions in nicotine intake were observed between usual brand smoking (∼1.2 mg nicotine) and the 0.3 and 0.05 mg nicotine emission cigarettes, but not the 0.6 mg cigarette. The findings provide little evidence of compensatory smoking of Quest cigarettes, with no increases in exhaled breath carbon monoxide levels, smoking intensity, or levels of 1-hydroxypyrene across study periods. No significant differences were observed for smoking urges or measures of nicotine dependence. The study adds to the evidence that cigarettes with markedly reduced nicotine content are not associated with increased smoking intensity or exposure to smoke toxicants. The findings add to the evidence base on reduced nicotine content cigarettes and have the potential to inform FDA policy on nicotine levels.