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Interventions to reduce harm from continued tobacco use


Stead, L. F and Lancaster, T.

Topic: Chronic Conditions
Type: Article
Region: International (other)

It may be reasonable to try to reduce the harm from continued smoking amongst smokers unable or unwilling to quit. Possible approaches to reduce the exposure to toxins from smoking include reducing the amount of tobacco used, and using less toxic products. The interventions evaluated in controlled trials have predominantly attempted to reduce the number of cigarettes smoked. Objectives To assess the effect of interventions intended to reduce the harm from smoking on the following: biomarkers of damage caused by tobacco, biomarkers of tobacco exposure, number of cigarettes smoked, quitting, and long-term health status. Randomized or quasi-randomized controlled trials of interventions in tobacco users to reduce amount smoked, or to reduce harm from smoking by means other than cessation were used. The 13 included trials all evaluated interventions to help smokers cut down the amount smoked. Self-reported reduction in cigarettes per day (CPD) was validated by reduction in carbon monoxide (CO) levels. Most trials tested nicotine replacement therapy (NRT) to assist reduction. No eligible studies evaluated the use of potentially reduced-exposure products. In a pooled analysis of eight trials, NRT significantly increased the odds of reducing CPD by 50% or more for people using nicotine gum or inhaler or a choice of product compared to placebo (n=3273, odds ratio [OR] 2.02, 95% confidence interval [CI] 1.55 to 2.62). Where average changes from baseline were compared for different measures, CO and cotinine consistently showed smaller reductions than CPD. Whilst the effect for NRT was significant, small numbers of people in either treatment or control group successfully sustained a reduction of 50% or more. Use of NRT also significantly increased the odds of quitting (OR 1.90, 95% CI 1.46 to 2.47). One trial of bupropion failed to detect an effect on reduction or cessation. Four trials of different types of advice and instructions on reducing CPD did not provide clear evidence.



Rights: © The Cochrane Collaboration
Suggested citation:

Stead, L. F and Lancaster, T.. (2007) Interventions to reduce harm from continued tobacco use [Online]. Available from: [Accessed: 20th July 2019].


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