Mouth-level nicotine intake estimates from discarded filter butts to examine compensatory smoking in low nicotine cigarettes

Tracy T. Smith, Joseph S. Koopmeiners, Dorothy K. Hatsukami, Katelyn M. Tessier, Neal L. Benowitz, Sharon E. Murphy, Andrew A. Strasser, Jennifer W. Tidey, Benjamin C. Blount, Liza Valentin, Roberto Bravo Cardenas, Clifford Watson, James L. Pirkle, Eric C. Donny

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

9 Scopus citations


Background: A mandated reduction in the nicotine content of cigarettes could reduce smoking rate and prevalence. However, one concern is that smokers may compensate by increasing the intensity with which they smoke each cigarette to obtain more nicotine. This study assessed whether smokers engage in compensatory smoking by estimating the mouth-level nicotine intake of low nicotine cigarettes smoked during a clinical trial. Methods: Smokers were randomly assigned to receive cigarettes with one of five nicotine contents for 6 weeks. An additional group received a cigarette with the lowest nicotine content, but an increased tar yield. The obtained mouth-level nicotine intake from discarded cigarette butts for a subset of participants (51-70/ group) was estimated using solanesol as described previously. A compensation index was calculated for each group to estimate the proportion of nicotine per cigarette recovered through changes in smoking intensity. Results: There was no significant increase in smoking intensity for any of the reduced nicotine cigarettes as measured by the compensation index (an estimated 0.4% of the nicotine lost was recovered in the lowest nicotine group; 95% confidence interval, -0.1 to 1.2). There was a significant decrease in smoking intensity for very low nicotine content cigarettes with increased tar yield. Conclusions: Reductions in nicotine content did not result in compensatory changes in how intensively participants smoked research cigarettes. Impact: Combined with data from clinical trials showing a reduction in cigarettes smoked per day, these data suggest that a reduction in nicotine content is unlikely to result in increased smoke exposure.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)643-649
Number of pages7
JournalCancer Epidemiology Biomarkers and Prevention
Issue number3
StatePublished - 2020

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© 2020 American Association for Cancer Research.


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