The individual preferences of cigarette smokers may vary but the amount of cigarettes consumed in a day is to some extent a direct correlation of the dependence on nicotine. It is fair to surmise that most smokers who use higher quantities of nicotine in a day are more dependent on nicotine. However, this is not always true as some smokers need to smoke more frequently irrespective of the quantity of nicotine. Therefore sometimes a chain smoker consuming low nicotine cigarettes may quantitatively consume less nicotine in a day but is more dependent on cigarettes than a moderate smoker consuming a ‘heavier’ cigarette with higher doses of nicotine.
Low vs High Nicotine Cigarettes
Cigarette smoking is an addiction that has both a physiological (physical) and psychological aspect. Nicotine plays a role in both these aspects of the dependence irrespective of whether one uses low or high nicotine cigarettes. The quantity of nicotine varies among different brands and strengths and so does the amount of tar and other noxious compounds. These days, the different strengths are labelled as ultra light, light, mild and filters suggesting the heavier brands. Flavoring most commonly with menthol does not affect this. The quantity of nicotine may vary between 0.1mg to 1.5mg. There is a misconception that smoking lighter cigarettes are therefore less of a health hazard than high nicotine cigarettes. However, the detrimental health effects of cigarette smoking seems to have little to do with the strength of the cigarette but rather the number of cigarettes consumed in a day and the duration of cigarette smoking (pack years).
Quitting with Lighter Cigarettes
Every smoker will testify to the difficulty in overcoming the addiction. Therefore many methods are employed to kick the habit from weaning off slowly to going cold turkey. At times, smokers wishing to quit switch to low nicotine options as a means of weaning off cigarettes. However, this may just be a means to delay the inevitable, which is eventually giving up cigarettes altogether.
Many smokers may find that they smoke more upon switching to lower nicotine cigarettes. Despite comforting themselves that their total daily intake is lower than it was, the important point to note here is that the habit actually increases. Cigarette smoking is not entirely about the addiction to nicotine and other monoamine oxidase inhibitors in cigarettes. It is also a habit of holding a cigarette in the hand, drawing on it and socializing with other smokers. Then there is the aspect of concomitant habits, like having a cigarette with coffee or after a meal.
Therefore switching to a lighter cigarette as a way of quitting smoking is not the most effective method. It may in fact have many pitfalls and even increase the severity of the habit. Whether one wishes to go cold turkey or slowly wean off cigarettes, the better option may be nicotine replacement products. Nicotine administration, however, is a habit and an addiction and it is best to consider changing the means of administration when quitting rather than reducing the quantity of daily usage.