Smoking Topography Characteristics of Very Low Nicotine Content Cigarettes, With and Without Nicotine Replacement, in Smokers With Schizophrenia and Controls

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Reducing the nicotine content of cigarettes to a minimally addictive level has been proposed as a regulatory strategy for reducing tobacco dependence. However, smokers with schizophrenia (SS) may be prone to changing their smoking topography in efforts to compensate for the reduction in nicotine content. The aims of this study were to compare smoking topography characteristics of usual-brand and very low nicotine content (VLNC) cigarettes in SS and control smokers without psychiatric illness (CS), and to determine whether nicotine replacement reversed any changes in topography produced by VLNC cigarettes.


Using a within-subjects, counter-balanced design, SS (n = 27) and CS (n = 23) smoked usual brand cigarettes, VLNC cigarettes while wearing placebo patches (VLNC + PLA), or VLNC cigarettes while wearing transdermal nicotine patches totaling 42mg (VLNC + NIC) during 5-hour ad libitum smoking sessions. Cigarettes were smoked through topography measurement devices.


Across conditions, SS smoked more puffs per session and per cigarette, had higher cigarette volumes, and had shorter inter-puff intervals than CS (Ps < .01). During VLNC cigarette sessions, puff duration increased and time between puffs decreased, but participants smoked fewer puffs, resulting in a net decrease in cigarette and total session volume (Ps < .001). There were no significant interactions between group and condition.


These findings indicate that acute use of VLNC cigarettes does not increase intensity of smoking in SS, and support the feasibility of a nicotine reduction policy.


Reducing the nicotine in cigarettes to a minimally addictive level has been proposed as a means of reducing tobacco dependence. However, smokers, particularly those with schizophrenia (SS) may alter their puffing in an attempt to extract more nicotine from VLNC cigarettes. This study compared smoking topography of usual brand versus VLNC cigarettes, combined with placebo or transdermal nicotine patches, in SS and controls. Although some changes in topography were indicative of compensatory smoking, total puffs and total cigarette volume were reduced with VLNC cigarettes, indicating that acute VLNC cigarette use does not increase smoking in SS.

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