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Early results show potential for new way to quit

Wellington campus

Wednesday 31 July 2013 9:11am

A ground-breaking trial of a world-first nicotine inhaler developed by the University of Otago, Wellington has been underway for a month now, with some significant results.

woman with inhaler

The nicotine inhaler is based on the same design as puffer devices used to deliver medication to asthmatics, but instead delivers a short burst of nicotine to people who are trying to give up smoking.

Project researcher Dr Brent Caldwell says the trial is working well, people are using the inhaler appropriately, and results show that they not only enjoy it, but it’s also relieving their cravings.

“This is really encouraging. This is the first time in the world that a highly tolerable pulmonary nicotine inhaler has been trialled which can deliver similar levels of nicotine to that provided by cigarettes. Our preliminary results show it will potentially be a huge improvement on current nicotine replacement therapies.”

Caldwell says inhaling nicotine is the fastest way to get nicotine to the brain, and is essential for it to be as rewarding and satisfying as smoking.

 “Our study aims to test whether giving smokers an inhaler that provides a rapid ‘hit’ of nicotine to the brain helps them to quit smoking when used in combination with nicotine patches”.

Among the trial participants are Paul Mallett and two of his workmates at Printlink, who have swapped their smoko breaks for puffer breaks.

Since joining the trial, the three work colleagues have watched each other use their inhaler at their desk instead of dashing outside in the cold for a fag.

When they feel like getting out of the office for a ‘puffer break’, they’ll go outside together with their inhalers and puff and swap stories of how they’ve been doing while progressively replacing their smoking with the inhaler.

“It’s been great to share our experiences of the inhaler, and talk about how we’ve been coping with reducing our smoking,” Mallet says.

Paul and his colleagues have discovered that inhaler can be highly sociable, and replace the roles that smoking plays in smokers’ lives.

Trial participant Alice O’Leary quit smoking for 14 months after taking part in Caldwell’s recent nicotine mouthspray study and really liked the mouthspray, but sadly relapsed to smoking. She believes the inhaler is even better than the mouthspray.

“It’s more rapid, it gives immediate relief, and it’s perfectly legitimate to use in public,” Alice says.

Alice realised how much progress she’s made with the inhaler when she lay awake for hours after recent aftershocks and didn’t feel the urge to go out for a cigarette.

Smokers are invited to take part in the study by visiting and completing the online questionnaire.

For further information, contact:

Dr Brent Caldwell
University of Otago, Wellington
Tel 64 4 918 6041
Mob 021 872 264

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