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New Nicotine Inhaler May Help Smokers Quit

Vapor Puffs From New Device Carry Nicotine Deep into Lung

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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 depression or schizophrenia.

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.

Quitting Smoking and Nicotine Replacement

Nicotine is not a benign drug. It's addictive, of course, but has a wide range of effects on the body. McIntosh says nicotine may itself be a carcinogen, and appears to promote the spread of existing tumors.

But McIntosh notes that smokers aren't just addicted to nicotine. They're also addicted to the behaviors that go along with smoking. By allowing people to get over these addictions before they tackle their nicotine addiction, McIntosh says nicotine replacement devices double smokers' odds of quitting for good.

Even so, nicotine replacement by itself isn't enough.

"One of the best ways to quit is to get four to six sessions of face-to-face counseling -- and telephone and web-based quit lines are almost as effective," McIntosh says.

Counselors in many states offer smokers several weeks worth of free nicotine patches; free nicotine replacement is also available via quit-smoking web sites. To find out about services available in the U.S., call the national smoking hot line: 1-800-QUIT-NOW.

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