Blood test key to help kick cigs

The rate at which a smoker’s blood breaks down nicotine could hold the secret to the best treatment they can receive if they want to kick the habit, researchers have found.

A report in the Lancet Respiratory Medicine Journal suggests people who process nicotine at a normal rate are better off to use drug treatment to wean themselves off cigarettes while, “slow” metabolisers of the substance could have the same results with patches, without the need for the drugs.

Professor Caryn Lerman of the University of Pennsylvania, who co-led the study, said as many as 65% of smokers who try to quit relapse within the first week.

“Our findings show that matching a treatment based on the rate at which smokers metabolise nicotine could be a viable clinical strategy to help individual smokers choose the cessation method that will work best for them,” she said.

The blood of 1,246 participants was tested and it found that 662 were slow metabolisers of nicotine and 584 were normal metabolisers.

Of the total, 408 were given placebo drugs, 418 were given a nicotine patch, and 420 were given varenicline, a non-nicotine based drug used to help smoking cessation.

The study showed that after 11 weeks of treatment, normal metabolisers taking varenicline were twice as likely not to be smoking as those using a nicotine patch.

They were also significantly more likely to still be avoiding tobacco six months later.

In slow metabolisers, both methods were equally effective, but patients taking the drug reported more side effects.

Meanwhile, it has been claimed smokers can sometimes pay more than double that of non-smokers for the cost of their life assurance and mortgage protection policies.

Research by Royal London showed a 45 year-old smoker with a 25-year mortgage on a €300,000 home would pay a monthly premium of €90.48 compared to a premium of €43.88 for a non-smoker.

For life assurance, it found a 45-year-old smoker could be asked to pay €161.85 per month over 20 years for a €500,000 policy, compared to a monthly premium of €76.28 for a non-smoking person of the same age.

Daragh Feely, broker sales manager with Royal London said: “For thousands of people across the country their New Year’s resolution will be to try to quit smoking. For those lucky enough to still be off cigarettes this time next year, it could mean savings not just on the direct costs of smoking, but also on the cost of their monthly life assurance premiums.”

Royal London said for people to be classed as a non-smoker they must not have used any tobacco products, including nicotine replacement products such as patches or chewing gum, in the last 12 months and have no intention to do so.

It said in rare cases a person may be asked to complete a cotinine test, . a simple test to screen for tobacco use by testing a sample of saliva or urine.


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