Background: Mandating a reduction in the nicotine content of cigarettes to a minimally addictive level could dramatically reduce smoking rates in the US. However, little is known about the effects of reduced nicotine content cigarettes in adolescents. Methods: Following overnight abstinence, adolescent daily smokers (ages 15–19, n = 50) reported on their craving, withdrawal, and positive and negative affect pre- and post- ad lib smoking of one cigarette containing varying nicotine content (15.8, 5.2, 1.3 and 0.4 mg/g of tobacco) in the laboratory and reported their subjective evaluations of each cigarette. Carbon monoxide (CO) boost from pre- to post-cigarette was calculated to determine if lower-nicotine cigarettes led to differential acute changes in toxicant exposure. Results: All four nicotine cigarette types significantly reduced abstinence-induced craving, withdrawal, and negative affect (all p's <.05). Mixed models evaluating the effect of nicotine content, with nicotine dependence level and gender included as covariates, revealed a significant effect of nicotine content on craving and subjective evaluations: higher nicotine content resulted in greater reductions in craving and increases in both positive and negative subjective evaluations. There were no significant effects of nicotine dose on withdrawal symptoms, negative affect, or CO boost. Conclusions: These results suggest that lower nicotine cigarettes might result in reduced abuse liability compared to higher nicotine content cigarettes due to reduced positive subjective effects, while still reducing withdrawal, in adolescents. These results highlight the potential feasibility of this policy approach and support continued research on how a nicotine reduction policy may affect adolescent smoking patterns.
- Nicotine reduction
- Regulatory science