Harm reduction--a treatment approach for resistant smokers with tobacco-related symptoms

Respiration. 2002;69(5):452-5. doi: 10.1159/000064015.


Smokers with chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) appear to represent a hard-core group, and this presents a dilemma for chest physicians. A reduction in cigarette smoking benefits health, and nicotine replacement therapy (NRT) can aid smoking reduction. Hence we studied the efficacy of nicotine gum in helping hard-core smokers with severe COPD to quit. Seventeen smokers with severe COPD (FEV(1) 38-47% of predicted normal) who smoked >30 cigarettes/day but were unable to quit were encouraged to reduce their smoking as much as possible by using 4-mg nicotine gum. Five gradually reduced their daily tobacco consumption and, 18 months after starting NRT, were smoking an average of 6 cigarettes/day while still using nicotine gum. Compared to baseline, their respiratory symptoms had improved, and both FEV(1) and FVC had increased. There was no improvement in pulmonary function in the group of smokers who did not reduce their cigarette consumption. No adverse events relating to nicotine occurred among the patients who used NRT to reduce their smoking. We propose that this reduction approach should be considered for patients with respiratory disease who are unable or unwilling to stop smoking.

Publication types

  • Case Reports

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Chewing Gum*
  • Female
  • Forced Expiratory Volume / physiology
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Motivation
  • Nicotine / therapeutic use*
  • Nicotinic Agonists / therapeutic use*
  • Pulmonary Disease, Chronic Obstructive / complications
  • Pulmonary Disease, Chronic Obstructive / therapy*
  • Time Factors
  • Tobacco Use Disorder / complications
  • Tobacco Use Disorder / psychology
  • Tobacco Use Disorder / therapy*


  • Chewing Gum
  • Nicotinic Agonists
  • Nicotine