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Thursday, July 8, 1999 Published at 10:53 GMT 11:53 UK


Health

Sweet tooth 'cure' for smoking

Glucose tablets could be a cheap disease prevention tool

by BBC reporter Tristan Chytroschek

Sugar could be the ultimate cure for smoking.

Doctors are testing whether giving people glucose tablets can reduce the urge to smoke.


The BBC's Tristan Chytroschek on glucose tablets and smoking
They say many smokers who try to give up get the munchies.

This could be because they have been using cigarettes to suppress their appetite.

In an attempt to turn the theory on its head, they are trying to wean addicts off tobacco with sugar.

And they say that, if successful, it could be one of the cheapest ways of beating the many diseases linked to smoking.

Hunger pangs

Trials involving 1,000 patients are beginning at St George's Hospital in London.


[ image: Professor Robert West: Smoking wards off hunger pangs]
Professor Robert West: Smoking wards off hunger pangs
Professor Robert West of St George's said: "The theory is that people's desire to smoke is confused with hunger.

"Cigarettes make the feelings go away. But if smokers can satisfy their hunger through other means, such as glucose tablets, they ought to be able to reduce their desire to smoke."

More than 100,000 people in the UK die each year from smoking-related diseases, such as lung cancer and heart disease.

Professor West said: "If this works, even to a moderate extent, the tablets are so very cheap they could be the most cost effective way of saving people's lives there is."

Scepticism

He predicts that the tablets could help double the number of smokers who are able to give up.

And he says they are will be a vital support to the majority of people who give up smoking without the aid of medical professionals.

But others are not so convinced.

Research psychologist Sylvia May says many smokers presented with the glucose tablets are initially "a little bit sceptical" that they will work.

But she adds that they generally warm to the experiment since they recognise the link between giving up cigarettes and eating more.

The results of the trial are not expected for at least two years.



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