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Sunday 16th June 2019

Fake cigarettes could help you quit

13th May 2011

Smokers trying to quit the habit may be more successful if they use fake cigarettes, an Italian study has found.


However, only smokers who feel more addicted to the social and behavioural aspects of smoking than to the nicotine in cigarettes may gain any benefit.

The plastic inhalers, which look like cigarettes but which contain no nicotine, were assessed for their effectiveness by a research team at Italy's Università di Catania.

Published in the European Respiratory Journal, the study looked at 120 people who had enrolled in a programme to give up smoking.

They divided the would-be quitters into two groups, one following the programme, and the other using the inhalers.

The participants' physical and behavioural dependence on cigarettes was also recorded by questionnaire.

The participants were asked if they had successfully quit smoking 24 weeks after the end of the programme.

The quit rates for both groups was more or less the same, but for people who reported the satisfaction and ritual of lighting up as a strong factor in their addiction, the fake cigarettes seemed to help.

These people, described as being dependent on the behavioural aspects of smoking rather than addicted to nicotine, had a much higher success rate when using an inhaler.

Of this kind of smoker, 66.7% managed to give up successfully in the group using the inhalers, compared with just 19.2% in the other group.

The team, led by professor Riccardo Polosa, concluded that the use of nicotine-free inhalers could help this kind of smoker to kick the habit for good.

The study was the first to reveal that the concept of behavioural addiction could be useful in helping smokers kick the habit, Polosa said.

It had demonstrated a clear predictive association between the measure of behavioural dependence and relapse, he said, suggesting that the link could be exploited as a useful clinical tool.

It could open up a new area of research in the field of smoking cessation, he added.

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