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Can a new lozenge help people quit smoking?

By Reuters - Aug 10,2017 - Last updated at Aug 10,2017

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A new lozenge containing the amino acid L-cysteine is an effective, nontoxic smoking-cessation product, according to researchers in Finland. 

At least two US experts are not convinced, however. 

The study was conducted by Dr Kari Syrjanen who, along with five coauthors, works in Helsinki for Biohit Oyj, the company that funded the study and markets the lozenge as Acetium. 

L-cysteine is an amino acid that eliminates acetaldehyde, a compound in cigarettes believed to play a role in tobacco addiction by enhancing the brain’s responses to nicotine. 

The research team recruited close to 2,000 cigarette smokers online and randomly assigned about half to use the L-cysteine lozenge with every single cigarette they smoked for six months, and the other half to use a dummy lozenge. 

All participants kept an electronic diary, recording the number of cigarettes smoked and how much they enjoyed smoking each one. 

Altogether, 753 people followed the directions for the entire study, and another 944 followed the directions most of the time, according to the report in Anticancer Research. 

Over six months, 331 people who finished the whole study quit smoking: 181 (18.2 per cent) who took the L-cysteine lozenge and 150 (15 per cent) who took the placebo. 

Among those who adhered strictly to the directions, 170 (45.3 per cent) who took the L-cysteine lozenge quit smoking compared with 134 (35.4 per cent) who took the placebo. 

Less smoking pleasure and “smoking sensations changed” were given as strong reasons for quitting. Six per cent of participants in the study reported adverse events (although the researchers did not collect the details), and the rate was about the same in both groups. 

Dr Scott Sherman, codirector of the Section on Tobacco, Alcohol and Drug Use at NYU Langone Medical Centre in New York called the study “promising” but said the lozenge “is not ready for prime time”.

The results are “modest”, he told Reuters Health by e-mail. The researchers did not compare the lozenge to other smoking-cessation treatments, he noted, and it is not clear if it would have worked as well if participants were not required to complete the daily diary. 

The lozenge is not available in the US, and other formulations of L-cysteine might not work as well as the one that was tested, Sherman noted. “If the manufacturer wanted to sell the product in the US and claim that it helps with quitting smoking, it would need to be approved and regulated by the Food and Drug Administration,” he said. 


Most successful smoking-cessation interventions also include behaviour counselling, she added. “If you have somebody you’re accountable to, it makes you feel better.” 

80 users have voted.


I have been trying to stop for many years and still not succeeded. However I have also observed those who have, and different methods they have used. I have tried patches and gum and the - in my opinion - very dangerous Champix tablets, whose medical side effects list sleeplessness, depression, possible suicidal feelings, nightmares, which I could recommend anyone against taking as I feel they yet another mostly untested substance similar to antidepressants or the like which no-one really knows what they are, doctors prescribe like candies in these times, and are very possibly the reason behind the increase in suicides and for example the inexplicable gun violence int he states which in almost every mass reported case was conducted by people on these so-called medications. We really need much more discussion and awareness of what people are prescribed and are taking, I have seen people I knew closely either on the brink of suicide or worse as a result of these things. The fact that pharmaceutical companies sell these things as safe, whose research seems to be often funded with corporate profits as an interest rather than medical science, does not mean they are or that anyone truly understands what they are doing messing with the delicate and intricate neuro-chemical balance of the mind and nervous system.

I will say that the one thing which I HAVE seen help a great many people cut down smoking of cut down completely is electric cigarettes, which have until now been proven to have no side effects or health risks and seem a lot safer than tobacco. The fact that it is illegal here in Jordan bewilders me when I have seen so mnay Jordanians who have kicked the habit with their help. I hope it has nothing to do with lobbying of the tobacco companies, if so this should be exposed and reported to the anti-corruption committee and the issue reassessed. The argument that youngsters can get addicted to nicotine by using them seems a bit of a weak one, as I have had 12 year old kids come up to me in the street asking for cigarettes here, and smoking truly can be a lifetime medical issue. I have never heard of anyone start smoking cigarettes who began with the electric substitutes.

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