PhotoA New Zealand study finds that smokers who used a nicotine inhaler were twice as likely to quit smoking as smokers using a placebo inhaler. The study also found that adding a nicotine inhaler to a nicotine patch doubled the chances of quitting over using a nicotine patch alone.

"There is considerable debate about whether inhaled nicotine is helpful for people who wish to stop smoking," said Julian Crane, a professor at the University of Otago, Wellington. "This is the first study to show that inhaled nicotine from a metered dose inhaler in the context of a smoker wanting to stop doubles their chances of quitting."

Crane says the findings are the first evidence that inhaled nicotine from a simple inhaler is highly effective and substantially increases a smoker's chances of quitting compared to the best current nicotine replacement treatment.

"Currently most smokers use nicotine patches to help them stop smoking. This study shows that if you add a nicotine inhaler to a nicotine patch, it doubles the chances of quitting over a nicotine patch alone," Crane said.

Inappropriate use less likely

The results of the New Zealand study funded by the Health Research Council appear in the journal Nicotine and Tobacco Research.

Crane said an advantage of the nicotine inhaler is that, unlike electronic cigarettes, it has no physical associations with the act of smoking.

"It also has benefits in that it is much less likely to be used inappropriately to administer other drugs given that it is a completely sealed unit," notes Crane.

The researchers are currently looking at how to make the inhaler available to all smokers who would like to use it.

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