New Nicotine Inhaler May Help Smokers Quit
Vapor Puffs From New Device Carry Nicotine Deep into Lung
March 1, 2010 -- A new type of smoke-free inhaler gives would-be quitters a
vapor with nearly as much nicotine as a cigarette.
Nicotine replacement is one of the most effective tools for helping smokers
quit, says Jed Rose, PhD, director of the Duke Center for Nicotine and Smoking
"There is the patch, gum, lozenges, and the current inhaler. But none
effectively satisfy a smoker's craving for the act of inhaling and feeling
nicotine going into the lungs and giving that rapid boost of nicotine into the
bloodstream in a user-friendly way," Rose tells WebMD.
The problem is that cigarettes are still the most efficient
nicotine-delivery device ever created, says Scott McIntosh, PhD, associated
director of the smoking research program at the University of Rochester, N.Y.,
who was not involved in the Rose project.
"It would be great to have a product that would deliver nicotine as well as
a cigarette," McIntosh tells WebMD.
That's exactly what Rose's and colleagues -- including James E. Turner,
co-inventor of the older Nicotrol/Nicorette inhaler -- set out to
The device they came up with does not use fire or heat. Instead, as the
smoker draws air through the cigarette-shaped device, a chemical called pyruvic
acid is drawn into contact with nicotine, creating a cloud of nicotine pyruvate
As pyruvic acid is a naturally occurring chemical that's part of the metabolism of every cell in the body, Rose says it
does not add toxicity to nicotine. In this regard, the device is very unlike a
cigarette, which delivers tars and a number of other cancer-causing substances
along with nicotine.
But would smokers use it? In the device's first test, Rose and colleagues
tried it on nine healthy smokers who had refrained from smoking overnight.
Each smoker took 10 puffs on the new device, 10 puffs on a
Nicotrol/Nicorette inhaler, and 10 puffs of room air. Before and after each set
of 10 puffs, the researchers measured the amount of nicotine in the smokers'
blood and determined their smoking withdrawal symptoms.
The Nicotrol/Nicorette inhaler did raise smokers' nicotine levels. But
it does not deliver nicotine deep into the lungs. Consequently, smokers
did not get as much nicotine from this FDA-approved device as they did from
equal amounts of nicotine in the new inhaler.
Moreover, the smokers said that puffing on the new device was less harsh and
irritating than puffing on the Nicotrol/Nicorette inhaler.
"We are trying to give smokers the whole package they really are addicted to
by trying to recreate that in a way we hope is far less harmful," Rose says.
"We think most problems in cigarettes -- carcinogens and so forth -- come from
things in smoke other than nicotine. We avoid them by giving nicotine without
all those problems."
Rose says that although the device would be used to help people quit smoking
entirely, it might also help people who are not ready to quit -- such as people
self-medicating with nicotine for
If more stringent tests of the device's safety go well, Rose says the device
would be commercially available in three to five years. Duke University has
filed patents on the product.