Researchers seeking subjects: Will replace cigarettes with reduced-nicotine cigarettes, exercise

By Liz Meszaros, MDLinx
Published April 24, 2017

Key Takeaways

Can exercise and reduced-nicotine cigarettes ease withdrawal symptoms that often occur when smokers try to reduce their dependence on nicotine? Researchers at the University of Virginia Health System are conducting a study to determine just this, and will provide subjects with cigarettes.

They seek to compare the effects in patients who receive regular cigarettes with those who are given reduced-nicotine cigarettes.

“We hope to see that exercise helps the users of low-nicotine cigarettes to reduce their withdrawal symptoms,” explained Aaron Yao, PhD, of UVA’s Department of Public Health Sciences and the UVA Cancer Center, Charlottesville, VA. “Smokers switched to low-nicotine cigarettes may have withdrawal symptoms."

For this study—which will take place in Charlottesville, Danville, and Wise County in Southwest Virginia, where roughly 30% of the population smokes—Dr. Yao and fellow researcher, Steven K. Malin, PhD, assistant professor of kinesiology, UVA Curry School of Education, seek female smokers aged 18 to 64 years old who have smoked at least four cigarettes per day for the past year and have not engaged in a regular exercise program.

Subjects will receive compensation of up to $800 upon completing the full 12-week study, cigarettes at no cost, membership to a local gym, and three sessions per week with a personal trainer.

“Aerobic exercise will improve fitness, increase metabolism and calories burned, and make you feel more energetic,” said Dr. Yao. “At the same time, a lot of smokers worry they will gain weight if they reduce their nicotine consumption. But if people work out, we hope it will also prevent weight gain.”

Drs. Yao and Malin seek to determine whether reduced-nicotine cigarettes are effective, and over the 12-week study, will reduce the nicotine in these cigarettes twice. After 12 weeks, they will compare fitness, body composition, and blood results with pre-study values. They stressed that this is not a “quitting” study.

“One important question is, when people use reduced-nicotine cigarettes, will they smoke more a day?” Dr. Yao said. “If they don’t get enough nicotine from a cigarette, will they compensate by just smoking more?…If someone wants to switch from normal nicotine cigarettes, then, of course, we don’t want them to double the number of cigarettes.”

For more information, E-mail: or call 434 243-8677. The study is IRB No. 19486.

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