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Smoking Behaviors Associated with Low Nicotine and Little Cigars

Principal Investigator: Caryn Lerman

Funding Mechanism: National Institutes of Health- Grant

ID number: 3U01DA020830-08S1

Award Date: 9/1/2012

Institution: University of Pennsylvania


Adaptive smoking behaviors associated with new and emerging tobacco products can have important implications for toxin exposure. For example, low nicotine content (LNC) cigarettes may offer a reasonable strategy to reduce the reinforcing properties of cigarette smoking; however, some smokers compensate for lower nicotine yield by smoking more intensely or by smoking more cigarettes daily. Little cigars may also pose an emerging problem. Little cigars (both small and medium) are significantly less expensive than cigarettes, and thus can be used to cheaply obtain desired nicotine levels; furthermore, their perceived risks are generally underestimated, leading to more intense use and increased exposure. Certain subgroups of smokers may be more vulnerable to adaptive smoking behaviors, and, therefore, to increased harm. One subgroup of interest is differentiated by nicotine metabolism, a heritable trait known to alter smoking behaviors and associated toxin exposure: faster nicotine metabolizers, defined by genotype or a nicotine metabolite biomarker, are more susceptible to more intense smoking behaviors. This investigation – which supplements ongoing research on nicotine metabolism rate as a predictor of response to different nicotine dependence treatments – will identify behavioral and exposure variations in LNC cigarette and little cigar smokers with slow versus fast nicotine metabolism. Specific aims, corresponding to two studies, are as follows: (1) to examine the compensatory effects of LNC cigarettes on smoking behaviors (e.g., daily cigarette consumption, total puff volume) and toxin exposure in 50 slow and 50 rapid nicotine metabolizers; and (2) to examine the compensatory effects of little cigars on smoking behaviors (e.g., daily cigar consumption, number of puffs taken, interpuff interval, total time lit, and amount smoked by mass and length) and toxin exposure in 40 slow and 40 rapid nicotine metabolizers. Both studies will use a validated phenotypic marker of nicotine metabolism rate that may identify those individuals at greatest risk of harm when using these tobacco products. This investigation will provide empirical evidence on use patterns and harm exposure related to LNC cigarettes and little cigars that can be used to inform regulatory activities related to these products.


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