The Smoking­Reduction Strategy

Weaning Yourself From Cigarettes

Some smokers cannot face the idea of quitting cigarettes cold turkey. Those who don’t try nicotine replacement may prefer to g.adually wean themselves, either by cutting down by degrees through the use of special filters or by switching to cigarettes with lower tar and nicotine ratings. This section reviews the relative merits of these “controlled smoking” strategies.

Switching Down Brands: Nicotine Fading

Let’s talk about a technique called nicotine fading. This involves switching to brands of cigarettes with progressively lower amounts of tar and nicotine until (hopefully) you’re finally able to quit.

What is the idea behind this? Gradually reducing the amount of nicotine you consume may ease the process of quitting. And there’s another train of thought behind this technique: smokers who are unable to quit completely think that they are better off switching to a brand with a lower tar and nicotine rating. Unfortunately, individuals using this procedure tend to smoke more, smoke each cigarette longer, and are unhappy with the smoking process yet, they continue it.

This strategy is currently used only in a few treatment programs. But the idea that it is good to switch to a brand with a low tar and nicotine rating is a popular belief that is reinforced by attractive ads for low-tar and low nicotine cigarettes. Many smokers use low-yield cigarettes as a transition to quitting, even if they have never heard of the technique called nicotine fading. Physicians have even recommended that smokers who are unable, Or unwilling, to quit switch to low-yield cigarettes for “health reasons.”

What is the Truth?

Low-tar and low-nicotine cigarettes are a trap for smokers. Advertisements make them seem like a great idea. They suggest tha t you can still smoke and loweI’ your exposure to tar and nicotine. In the fight for market share, low-yield alternatives to the popular higher tar and nicotine brands such as Winston, Camel, and Marlboro portray them selves as the “healthy choice.” They seem to say, “If you must smoke, smoke us.”

Unfortunately, the truth is that low-tar and low-nicotine ciga­rettes do not reduce your exposure to tar and nicotine. You are no better off smoking these cigarettes than any other brand. In fact, studies of the effect of low-yield cigarettes have found no relationship between a cigarette’s published yield and a smoker’s intake of nicotine, as measured by a blood test. A study published in 1983 in The New England Journal of Medicine concluded that smokers of low~nicotine cigarettes do not consume less nicotine.

Many other studies support these results. In addition, experts have stated that the increased risk of heart attacks is no different for smokers of high-yield cigarettes than it is for smokers of low-yield cigarettes. Other investigators have reported that levels of carbon monoxide in the blood are no different either.

How is it possible that these low-tar and low-nicotine cigarettes are not what they say? Let’s discuss how these cigarettes are produced. Low-yield cigarettes do not contain any special, different kind of tobacco. The tobacco in these cigarettes has the same amount and concentration of nicotine as any other brand. So what’s the so-called advantage? The “benefit” is achieved by using filters that mix the inhaied smoke with some air. In addition, the tobacco burns more rapidly. These advantages, however, do not translate into lower exposure for the smoker. Remember: you do not help yourself by smoking these cigarettes. Are you confused? This whole topic is confusing. Let’s try to clear it up.