Study analyzes link between nicotine and addiction

Lauren Schnepf, Assistant News Editor

New research shows that lower levels of nicotine in cigarettes may lead to reduced addiction and dependency on the drug.

Completed in April 2016,  the Vermont Center on Behavior and Health at UVM  studied the effects of lower nicotine levels in cigarettes and addiction in vulnerable populations.

The study was run in conjunction with Brown University, the John Hopkins University School of Medicine and the University of Kansas, according to an Aug. 25 article.

The research team was led by Stephen Higgins, director of the Center on Behavior and Health and a psychiatry professor at UVM.

Years of research have shown that nicotine is the constituent in cigarettes that causes addiction and repeated use, Higgins said.

“Nicotine’s effects depend on the dose, [so] lowering nicotine content will lower nicotine exposure and associated risk for addiction,” he said.

In one part of the study, participants were asked how often they would smoke cigarettes at different nicotine levels based on the price, according to the article.

The researchers found that while participants had little interest in purchasing the lower-dose cigarettes, they also were less likely to want to purchase the higher dose cigarettes when they were associated with higher prices.

“The price has a lot to do with the type of cigarettes I buy,” said a UVM student who prefers to remain anonymous.

The student said they were more likely to avoid cigarettes priced at a higher rate even if they did contain higher nicotine levels.

“[The implication is] that these biases and preferences people have for the higher-dose cigarette is malleable depending on what the price is,” Higgins said.

The second and third parts of the study had participants choose from a variety of cigarettes with varying nicotine levels while a computer recorded their preferences and whether they wanted to continue smoking after two puffs, the article stated.

The results showed that while participants preferred cigarettes with higher nicotine levels, lower-dose cigarettes were less likely to be addictive.