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Wednesday, 15 March, 2000, 19:04 GMT
The pleasurable way to quit smoking
Cigarette
Scientists have developed an easier way to quit
Scientists have developed a way to help people give up smoking by increasing the impact of each individual cigarette.

A team from the University of Toronto has targeted the enzyme that breaks down nicotine in the body.

By inhibiting the action of the enzyme, more nicotine remains in the bloodstream and the pleasure smokers get from a cigarette lasts longer.


Smoking is a regulated behaviour. People will not let their nicotine levels go beyond a certain amount

Dr Edward Sellers, University of Toronto
The theory is that this will encourage smokers to light up less frequently.

Blocking the enzyme - cytochrome P450 2A6 - also prevents the activation of the cancer-causing substances in tobacco smoke.

Lead investigator Dr Edward Sellers said: "This principal is quite different than anything currently in use.

"Smoking is a regulated behaviour. People will not let their nicotine levels go beyond a certain amount.

"If they go up momentarily, smokers will take fewer or smaller puffs.

"That can be the first step to quitting."

Most current smoking cessation methods reduced withdrawal symptoms by replacing nicotine via patches, gum, inhalers or vaporisers.

Drug tests

In a study with 11 smokers, Dr Sellers successfully tested the impact of a drug called methoxsalen.

The drug, which is commonly used to treat the skin condition psoriasis, is a potent enzyme inhibitor, capable of increasing blood levels of nicotine.

Little of the drug enters the bloodstream, reducing exposure to the internal organs and other body tissue.

However, Dr Sellers warned that more safety testing was needed before methoxsalen is approved for use in smoking cessation.


The problem with nicotine is that it is so addictive that it is on a par with heroin and cocaine

Amanda Sandford, Action on Smoking and Health (ASH)
Amanda Sandford, research manager for the anti-smoking charity Action on Smoking and Health (ASH) said: "If this research helps people reduce the amount they smoke then we would welcome it, but I find it difficult to agree with the assumption that this will ultimately help people give up.

"The problem with nicotine is that it is so addictive that it is on a par with heroin and cocaine."

Ms Sandford said the best way to quit smoking was simply to chose a day, plan ahead and then make a clean break.

"The problem with cutting down is that you are still satisfying that constant craving for nicotine," she said.

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See also:

19 Nov 99 | Medical notes
Smoking: The health effects
08 Feb 00 | Health
'Treat nicotine as a hard drug'
13 Dec 99 | Health
Quitting made easy
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