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Gargle Away That Nasty Habit

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WebMD Health News

March 12, 2001 -- Combat smoker's breath and work toward quitting at the same time. That might be the future pitch for a new mouthwash that currently is being tested. The solution, created by an unnamed inventor, contains a copper compound that interacts with something in tobacco smoke to make the latter taste unbearably bad and hopefully rinse away the urge to light up.

"The advantage to a product like this is that people use mouth sprays and breath sprays routinely," researcher Sebastian Ciancio, DDS, tells WebMD. "It's about the same idea as chewing gum." Ciancio is professor and chair of the department of peridontology at the University of Buffalo School of Dental Medicine in New York.

But if Ciancio is referring to nicotine gums, this product is not the same at all. The new mouthwash would appear to do nothing to treat one of the main problems with smoking cessation: symptoms of withdrawal.

"With nicotine-replacement or Zyban (a prescription drug used for smoking cessation), a person wakes up and doesn't have such a powerful urge to smoke. It's treating the basic desire or craving and lessening it," says Jack Henningfield, PhD, an associate professor of behavioral biology at Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore and vice president of research and health policy at Pinney Associates in Bethesda, Md., a consulting firm on antismoking products.

But Henningfield explains that the mouthwash does not lessen the desire or craving to smoke. It does add a step that gives a couple of hours support. "Then you're back to, 'Boy, I really want a cigarette,'" he says, adding that a strong behavioral program built around the mouthwash might overcome some of the problems.

Ciancio agrees that the mouthwash may not be the only answer to quitting smoking. "The important thing is no one gimmick is going to work if there's also not a motivational component," he tells WebMD. "There's no magic bullet."

Still, he points out that studies with hard-core smokers demonstrate the product can be effective. After using the mouthwash, even a single puff from a cigarette repulsed them, he says. And the effect lasts for about two to three hours.

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