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Wednesday, 16 January, 2002, 00:52 GMT
Chinese smokers 'need less nicotine'
Chinese man smoking, Beijing
About 300 million men in China are smokers
Smokers of Chinese origin may be less likely to develop lung cancer than other people because they take in less nicotine per cigarette, scientists say.

They also found the group breaks-down nicotine at two-thirds the rate of white or Latino people, meaning they need to smoke fewer cigarettes to satisfy their craving.

It is thought different intakes of toxins from cigarette smoke may account for some or most of the ethnic variation in lung cancer risk.

In the US, white people are about five times more likely to develop the disease than Chinese.

It's not that some ethnic groups can smoke with impunity

Clive Bates - ASH
The research team, from the University of California, said it could also mean nicotine patches for those trying to quit should be designed according to ethnicity.

Clive Bates, director of Action on Smoking and Health (ASH) told BBC News Online the research revealed interesting new information about the impact of nicotine on the body.

But he said lower rates of lung cancer in some groups disguised the fact the risk remained very high for all of them.

He said: "It's not that some ethnic groups can smoke with impunity. Still the advice has to be that you have to give up smoking."

Previous study

Scientists have investigated the impact of ethnicity on smoking and associated diseases for years and it is hoped the new research will provide many of the answers they were looking for.

Our findings suggest that Chinese-Americans and Chinese who are trying to stop smoking may need a different dose of nicotine medication than do Caucasians Here

Professor Neal Benowitz
It shows white and Latino people take in significantly more nicotine from a cigarette than Chinese-Americans.

White and Latino people also appeared to break-down the nicotine faster than the Chinese group, adding to the theory they needed to smoke more deeply and more often to achieve similar results.

Latinos smoked fewer cigarettes than whites on average and were less likely to suffer lung cancer.

A similar study by the team in 1998 discovered African-Americans take in more nicotine per cigarette than whites, mainly because they draw harder.

The researchers think this explains why African- Americans have a greater incidence of lung cancer than white people, despite the fact they smoke about the same amount.

Clinical trials

Professor Neal Benowitz, who led the study, said the findings had implications for treatments designed to help people stop smoking.

He said: "Our findings suggest that Chinese-Americans and Chinese who are trying to stop smoking may need a different dose of nicotine medication than do Caucasians (whites and Latinos)."

Clinical trials for nicotine patches were mainly carried out in the UK and Europe, with mostly white participants.

Mr Benowitz said this may not have been appropriate to the 300 million male and 20 million female smokers in China.


Cancer researchers believe that nine out of 10 people with lung cancer develop the disease because of smoking.

Despite the new research highlighting the importance of nicotine intake and metabolism, previous studies have suggested other important reasons for the difference.

On average Chinese people start smoking at a relatively late age and suffer a higher rate of lung cancers not related to smoking

The study involved 37 Chinese-American, 40 Latino, and 54 white volunteers of varying age and average daily cigarette intake from the San Francisco Bay area.

The research is published in the Journal of the National Cancer Institute.

See also:

16 Mar 00 | Crossing Continents
China lights up
16 Aug 01 | Health
China's smoking timebomb
28 Nov 00 | Health
Nicotine linked to lung cancer
02 Aug 00 | Health
UK lung cancer deaths halved
12 Dec 01 | Health
Nicotine patch rules condemned
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