Effects of Reduced-Nicotine Cigarettes Across Regulatory Environments in the Experimental Tobacco Marketplace: A Randomized Trial

Brent A. Kaplan, Mikhail Koffarnus, Christopher T. Franck, Warren K. Bickel

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

10 Scopus citations


Introduction: Cigarette smoking remains the leading preventable cause of death in the United States. Recent efforts have explored the potential health and policy benefits of reducing nicotine, an addictive component, in combustible cigarettes. To date, an experimental, prospective analysis directly comparing the effects of varying regulatory environments on purchases of multiple products has yet to be conducted. The present study compared real purchasing of conventional cigarettes, reduced-nicotine cigarettes, and a variety of other nicotine and tobacco products across a range of regulatory environments. Methods: Participants were assigned to one of five groups, each associated with a different nicotine level (mg of nicotine to g of tobacco) in SPECTRUM investigational cigarettes (15.8, 5.2, 2.4, 1.3, and 0.4 mg/g). Across sessions, participants made real purchases for nicotine/tobacco products in an Experimental Tobacco Marketplace. Each session corresponded with a distinct regulatory environment wherein different nicotine/tobacco products were available for purchase. Results: Our results suggest that the primary drivers of cigarette and nicotine purchasing are regulatory environment and the presence/absence of alternative nicotine and tobacco products. Perhaps surprisingly, nicotine level does not appear to be such a driver of purchasing behavior under these experimental conditions. Investigational cigarette purchasing is lowest when other preferred combustible products are available and highest when investigational cigarettes are the only combustible product available for purchase. Conclusions: If a reduced-nicotine policy is implemented, great care should be taken in determining and making available less-harmful nicotine/tobacco products as the availability of preferred combustible products may result in undesirable levels of purchasing. Implications: This is the first experimental study investigating different potential regulatory effects related to a reduced-nicotine policy by examining purchasing across a range of nicotine/tobacco products. Our results suggest the presence of affordable, highly preferred combustible products is likely to maintain tobacco purchasing at undesirable levels. To promote switching to less-harmful products, affordable alternate nicotine and tobacco products should be readily available. Finally, our results suggest that the availability of noncigarette products, not cigarette nicotine level, will most likely affect purchasing of reduced-nicotine cigarettes.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1123-1132
Number of pages10
JournalNicotine and Tobacco Research
Issue number7
StatePublished - Jul 1 2021

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2020 The Author(s) 2020. Published by Oxford University Press on behalf of the Society for Research on Nicotine and Tobacco. All rights reserved.For permissions, please e-mail: [email protected].

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Public Health, Environmental and Occupational Health


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