By Alisdair Stirling
Fake cigarettes help motivated smokers to quit, according to the first published randomised controlled trial of nicotine-free inhalers.
Researchers studying 120 patients enrolled in a smoking cessation programme gave half the group plastic inhalers while the other half were given nicotine patches.
They also used questionnaires to determine the patients' physical and behavioural dependence on cigarettes.
Overall results showed no significant difference between the groups in quit rates at 24 weeks, when 33.3% of those in the inhaler group at had quit compared with 28.3% of the control group.
But the quit rate in the inhaler group was higher in patients who said they were motivated to smoke because of the addictive habit and the ritual of lighting up. 66.7% of these patients had quit at 24 weeks, more than three-fold higher than the reference group, at 19.2.
Study leader Professor Riccardo Polosa, director of the institute of internal medicine and clinical immunology at the University of Catania in Italy said: ‘Our study is the first to reveal that the concept of behavioural addiction can be exploited as a useful clinical tool for many smokers willing to quit. This will open up a potentially novel area of research in smoking cessation.'
European Respiratory Journal 2011, online May 12Nicotine-free cigarettes helped boost quit rates