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Fake cigarettes can help quitters succeed, study shows

Louise Prime

Thursday, 12 May 2011

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Smokers may be more likely to succeed in their effort to quit if they use nicotine-free cigarette-shaped inhalers alongside usual treatment, shows research published online in the European Respiratory Journal.

Researchers in Italy recruited 120 smokers, who were enrolled in a stop-smoking programme, into their study – the first study ever to try to determine whether or not a nicotine-free inhaler could help smokers to quit.

They assessed by questionnaire the extent of smokers’ physical and behavioural dependence on cigarette smoking.

The would-be quitters were divided into two groups. One group followed the usual quit programme and the other group used the fake cigarettes. Both groups were followed up 24 weeks later. Overall quit rates were similar across both groups.

However, smokers who had a strong behavioural dependence on the ritual of smoking were much more likely to succeed in quitting if they had used the plastic inhaler (66.7% success rate) than if they had followed the usual programme (19.2% success rate).

The study’s authors said: “The results show that for smokers who rely on the handling of a cigarette as a behavioural pattern, nicotine-free inhalers could increase their chance of success when trying to quit smoking.”

They added: “By showing a clear predictive association between the measure of behavioural dependence and relapse, our study is the first to reveal that the concept of behavioural addiction can be exploited as a useful clinical tool for many smokers willing to quit. This will open up a potentially novel area of research in smoking cessation.”

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