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Abrupt nicotine reduction as an endgame policy: a randomised trial
  1. Natalie Walker1,
  2. Trish Fraser2,
  3. Colin Howe1,
  4. Murray Laugesen3,
  5. Penny Truman4,
  6. Varsha Parag1,
  7. Marewa Glover5,
  8. Chris Bullen1
  1. 1National Institute for Health Innovation (NIHI), School of Population Health, The University of Auckland, Auckland, New Zealand
  2. 2Global Public Health Company Ltd, Glenorchy, New Zealand
  3. 3Health NZ Ltd, Christchurch, New Zealand
  4. 4Institute for Environmental Science and Research (ESR) Ltd, Porirua, New Zealand
  5. 5Centre for Tobacco Control Research, Social and Community Health, School of Population Health, The University of Auckland, Auckland, New Zealand
  1. Correspondence to Dr Natalie Walker, National Institute for Health Innovation, School of Population Health, The University of Auckland, Private Bag 92019, Auckland, New Zealand; n.walker{at}


Objective To determine if smokers unmotivated to quit reduce usual cigarette consumption when cigarettes priced according to nicotine content are made available.

Methods Randomised, parallel-group, trial (ACTRN12612000914864) undertaken in Wakatipu/Central Otago, New Zealand. Dependent adult daily smokers unmotivated to quit were randomly allocated to an intervention group provided with 12 weeks supply of free very low nicotine content (VLNC) cigarettes, or to a control group, who were free to purchase their usual cigarette brand over the same period. The primary outcome was change from baseline in the daily mean number of usual cigarettes smoked over the previous week, measured at 12 weeks. Secondary outcomes at 6 and 12 weeks included cigarettes smoked per week (also measured at weeks 1–6 and 9), salivary cotinine, tobacco dependence, smoking satisfaction/craving, behavioural addiction to smoking, autonomy over smoking, motivation to stop, price at which participants would purchase VLNC cigarettes, quitting and adverse events.

Results Thirty-three smokers were randomised (17 intervention, 16 control). A NZ$15 price differential (per pack of 20) based on nicotine content led to a halving in the mean number of cigarettes smoked per day over the previous week, a reduction in tobacco dependence and an increase in quitting. Intervention participants smoked a similar total number of cigarettes (usual plus VLNC) as those in the control group, exposing them to a similar level of toxicants.

Conclusions Smokers unmotivated to quit reduce their usual cigarette consumption (and thus nicotine exposure) when VLNC cigarettes are made available at a significantly reduced price.

  • Taxation
  • Public policy
  • Price
  • Nicotine
  • End game

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