Helping smokers unwilling or unable to quit

My name is Kevin Bridgman. I am Nicovations’ Chief Medical Officer and a former GP who spent eight years in the NHS before specialising in pharmaceutical medicine. My personal interest in harm reduction began when I worked on Nicotine Replacement Therapy products, NRTs, for some of the leading pharmaceutical companies. At Nicovations , I oversee research and product development into innovative licensed nicotine products that we hope will help smokers overcome some of their barriers to quitting.

The history of tobacco harm reduction goes back some years. In 2007 the Royal College of Physicians suggested that, as medicinal nicotine itself is not especially hazardous, if it could be provided in a form acceptable and effective as a cigarette substitute, millions of lives could be saved. They felt it was time for additional and more radical approaches towards smoking cessation.[1]

The change they were looking for was signalled in 2010 when the UK’s Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency, the MHRA, ruled that NRT products could be used to reduce the harm from smoking, as well as to help with quitting.[2]    This harm reduction approach recognises that some smokers might continue to smoke while they use NRT products to replace some or all of their cigarettes on their journey towards quitting, and that that journey might take some time of course, adopting harm reduction as a route to quitting means potentially that smokers could be using medicinal nicotine for longer than they would have done previously.

In case you have concerns, you might be reassured that the MHRA has said that there would not appear to be any major safety issues with the long term use of NRT and any adverse effects associated with its use need to be seen in the context of the substantial risk of continuing to smoke.  In fact it has become widely accepted that there are no circumstances in which it is safer to smoke than to use NRT.[3]

Stopping smoking is the single greatest step smokers can take to reduce their future risk of preventable ill-health and premature death.  We hope that those smokers who find it hard to stop will give the harm reduction approach a try. Our research tells us that smokers do not perceive themselves as having a disease and this is why we want to appeal to them as people not patients. It is also why we support the development of new types of NRT, that give smokers much of the experience they want from a cigarette but without the serious health risk of smoking.

Our goal is to help smokers on their journey to quitting by giving them an appealing, licensed alternative as a reduced-harm smoking alternative. In other words, we want to enable smokers to stop smoking in their own way.

[1] Royal College of Physicians. Harm reduction in nicotine addiction. Helping people who can't quit. A report by the Tobacco Advisory Group of the Royal College of Physicians, October 2007

[2] MHRA Public Assessment Report. The use of nicotine replacement therapy to reduce harm in smokers. 2010

[3] MHRA Drug Safety Update. Vol 3, Issue 7 February 2010 from MHRA and Commssion on Human Medicines (CHM)