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Switching people who smoke to unfiltered cigarettes: perceptions, addiction and behavioural effects in a cross-over randomised controlled trial


Background Behavioural research is needed to inform a ban on sales of filtered cigarettes that could reduce plastic waste due to discarded filters. This study reports on differences in perceptions, nicotine dependence and behaviour among participants in a cross-over randomised trial of filtered compared with unfiltered cigarettes.

Method This proof-of-concept study involved 43 people who smoke filtered cigarettes (41.9% women, mean age 36.7 years). Participants were provided 2 weeks’ supply of filtered cigarettes, 2 weeks of the same brand of unfiltered cigarettes and randomly assigned to starting conditions. Measures included the Modified Cigarette Evaluation Questionnaire; single-item cigarette perception questions; Fagerström Test of Nicotine Dependence; 7-day cigarette consumption, urinary cotinine and intention to quit. Analyses included linear and ordinal repeated measures mixed-effects models and paired t-tests.

Results Filtered cigarettes were perceived as better tasting, more satisfying, more enjoyable, less aversive, less harsh, less potent and less negatively reinforcing than unfiltered cigarettes. Filtered cigarettes were smoked at a higher rate during the trial than unfiltered cigarettes (p<0.05). There was no difference in cotinine, dependence or intention to quit between filtered versus unfiltered cigarette conditions (p>0.05).

Conclusion People who smoke perceived unfiltered cigarettes as having greater nicotine effects and less desirable sensory effects than filtered cigarettes, and they smoked fewer of these during the trial. Although cotinine, dependence and intention to quit were similar for smoking unfiltered and filtered cigarettes in this small trial, results suggest that banning the sale of filtered cigarettes might make smoking less attractive overall to people who smoke.

Trial registration number NCT03749876.

  • nicotine
  • addiction
  • environment
  • endgame

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