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Washington U. Study Suggests Just Nicotine for Smokers

By Kevin Lavery, KWMU

St. Louis, MO – A Washington University physician says the adverse health effects of cigarettes could be greatly reduced if smokers could instead simply inhale only nicotine.

Dr. Walton Sumner says despite centuries of anti-smoking programs, he believes some level of tobacco use in society is always going to be inevitable. Sumner is studying how smokers could make their habit safer by inhaling so-called "clean" nicotine.

"If you could deliver the nicotine to your lungs without delivering all the carbon monoxide and tar, you wouldn't probably suffer as many of the chronic diseases that we see with tobacco cigarette smokers," he says.

Nicotine inhalers have not been developed commercially, though Sumner says there is a patented design for one. But he adds if a nicotine inhaler could be proven safe for use, a pharmaceutical company might be persuaded to invest in producing one.

"The key problem is that if there's no reason to think you could market this thing to the general public under some sort of level playing field with cigarettes, there's no reason to develop it."

His study can be found online in the June issue of Tobacco Control.

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