Nicotine-Free Cigarettes Providing Help or Hype?

Web Producer: Brad Maglinger

Nicotine is the chemical that gets people hooked on cigarettes. It would make sense that if you get them off the nicotine, they will eventually give up smoking all together. It sounds good in theory, but one local expert says it's not a very practical approach to kicking the habit.

So many people are buying Quest cigarettes that Don's Shell is having trouble keeping them on the shelves. Jon Madden smokes them "to try to stop smoking."

There are three steps to the program: Quest 1, the cigarettes provide low nicotine smoking. Quest 2, extra-low and while Quest 3 says it's nicotine-free on the front, the side of the pack says it contains trace levels.

Something else that's in the fine print, it's not intended for use in quitting smoking. Only for smokers seeking to reduce nicotine exposure. "Smoke-Free Communities" director Johnny Kincaid said, "It really looks like they're talking about a cessation product and a lot of really smart people get kind of duped into believing that's the case and they don't read the fine print there."

Kincaid also said that even if you're not inhaling nicotine, you're still inhaling other harmful substances. Each Quest cigarette contains ten milligrams of tar which has been shown to damage the lungs. "If a person were looking at a harm reduction situation, frankly a person would be better off going to a light where they reduce the tar levels too, along with reducing the nicotine," said Kincaid.

But he points out that smoking isn't safe in any form and the makers of Quest don't dispute that. They say their cigarettes only offer a way to enjoy smoking without all of the nicotine.

Madden says the low nicotine cigarettes aren't so bad, but as for the ones that contain trace amounts."Tastes kind of metal. They're ok. They do kind of stink just a little bit though," Madden said. He hopes he'll get used to them and eventually be able to quit for good.

Kincaid says that's a long shot. He explained that usually when people switch to lower nicotine cigarettes, they just puff harder, inhale more deeply and end up getting the same amount of nicotine as before. He says cutting down on the number of cigarettes you smoke leading up to a final quit date is usually the best approach. Kincaid also says this isn't the first time companies have made low nicotine cigarettes and they haven't been successful. He doesn't think these will be either.

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