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Estimating the health consequences of replacing cigarettes with nicotine inhalers


Background: A fast acting, clean nicotine delivery system might substantially displace cigarettes. Public health consequences would depend on the subsequent prevalence of nicotine use, hazards of delivery systems, and intrinsic hazards of nicotine.

Methods: A spreadsheet program, DEMANDS, estimates differences in expected mortality, adjusted for nicotine delivery system features and prevalence of nicotine use, by extending the data and methods of the SAMMEC 3 software from the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The user estimates disease risks attributable to nicotine, other smoke components, and risk factors that coexist with smoking. The public health consequences of a widely used clean nicotine inhaler replacing cigarettes were compared to historical observations and public health goals, using four different risk attribution scenarios and nicotine use prevalence from 0–100%.

Main outcome measures: Changes in years of potential life before age 85 (YPL85).

Results: If nicotine accounts for less than a third of smokers’ excess risk of SAMMEC diseases, as it most likely does, then even with very widespread use of clean nicotine DEMANDS predicts public health gains, relative to current tobacco use. Public health benefits accruing from a widely used clean nicotine inhaler probably equal or exceed the benefits of achieving Healthy People 2010 goals.

Conclusions: Clean nicotine inhalers might improve public health as much as any feasible tobacco control effort. Although the relevant risk estimates are somewhat uncertain, partial nicotine deregulation deserves consideration as part of a broad tobacco control policy.

  • computer simulation
  • nicotine
  • cessation
  • DEMANDS, Differences in Expected Mortality Adjusted for Nicotine Delivery Systems
  • PREP, potential reduced exposure products
  • SAMMEC, Smoking Attributable Morbidity, Mortality and Economic Costs
  • YPLG, years of potential life gained
  • YPLL, years of potential life lost

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