Abstract

Many smokers are not ready to quit but are interested in changing their smoking behavior, particularly if such a change is associated with a reduction in health risk. The present study evaluated the efficacy of the nicotine inhaler in reducing smoking. Exploratory studies assessed whether reduction in smoking was associated with reduction in markers of disease risk. A total of 429 healthy smokers (smoking at least 20 cigarettes/day) were randomly assigned to either nicotine-containing or placebo inhalers, which subjects were allowed to use ad libitum for up to 1 year. The nicotine inhaler was significantly superior to placebo in achieving reduction in daily cigarette consumption by at least 50% after 4 months, compared with baseline (18% vs. 8%, p=.004). Active treatment promoted smoking cessation: 8% of subjects in the nicotine group and 1% in the placebo group were abstinent at month 15. Throughout the study, smoking reduction, per se, independent of treatment group, was associated with a statistically significant decrease in exhaled carbon monoxide and serum cotinine and thiocyanate. Smoking reduction also improved established risk markers for cardiovascular disease over 4 months. The incidence of adverse events did not differ significantly between the active and placebo groups. The most common treatment-related adverse events were throat irritation and cough. In conclusion, the nicotine inhaler can help smokers who are unable or unwilling to quit to reduce daily cigarette consumption, which may be a health benefit on its own and may further promote quitting.