The Impact of Gradual and Immediate Nicotine Reduction on Subjective Cigarette Ratings

Tracy T. Smith, Eric C. Donny, Xianghua Luo, Alicia M. Allen, Dana M. Carroll, Rachel L. Denlinger-Apte, Sarah S. Dermody, Joseph S. Koopmeiners, F. Joseph McClernon, Lauren R. Pacek, Ryan Vandrey, Dorothy K. Hatsukami

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

18 Scopus citations


BACKGROUND: A recent clinical trial showed that an immediate transition to very low nicotine content (VLNC) cigarettes, compared with a gradual transition, produced greater reductions in smoking behavior, smoke exposure, and dependence. However, there was less compliance with the instruction to smoke only VLNC cigarettes in the immediate versus gradual reduction condition. The goal of this study was to test whether nicotine reduction method alters subjective ratings of VLNC cigarettes, and whether subjective ratings mediate effects of nicotine reduction method on smoking behavior, smoke exposure, dependence, and compliance. METHODS: This is a secondary analysis of a randomized trial conducted across 10 sites in the United States. Smokers (n = 1250) were randomized to either a control condition, or to have the nicotine content of their cigarettes reduced immediately or gradually to 0.04 mg nicotine/g of tobacco during a 20-week study period. Participants completed the modified Cigarette Evaluation Questionnaire (mCEQ). RESULTS: After Week 20, the immediate reduction group scored significantly lower than the gradual reduction group on multiple subscales of the mCEQ (ps < .001). The Satisfaction subscale of the mCEQ mediated the impact of nicotine reduction method on smoke exposure, smoking behavior, dependence, compliance, and abstinence. Other subscales also mediated a subset of these outcomes. CONCLUSIONS: An immediate reduction in nicotine content resulted in lower product satisfaction than a gradual reduction, suggesting that immediate reduction further reduces cigarette reward value. This study will provide the Food and Drug Administration with information about the impact of nicotine reduction method on cigarette reward value. IMPLICATIONS: These data suggest that an immediate reduction in nicotine content will result in greater reductions in cigarette satisfaction than a gradual reduction, and this reduction in satisfaction is related to changes in smoking behavior and dependence.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)S73-S80
JournalNicotine & tobacco research : official journal of the Society for Research on Nicotine and Tobacco
Issue number1
StatePublished - Dec 23 2019

PubMed: MeSH publication types

  • Journal Article
  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Randomized Controlled Trial


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