2nd June 2017, Volume 130 Number 1456

Trish Fraser, Anette Kira

One strategy among many proposed for accelerating reductions in smoking prevalence is reducing nicotine content of tobacco.1 This would expose new smokers to less nicotine, ensuring that they would be…

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Very low-nicotine cigarettes are cigarettes that are not addictive. If they were the only cigarettes on the market they could help smokers to quit and young people taking up smoking would not become addicted. However, the cigarettes have very little appeal to smokers, who would generally only be interested in them if they were wanting to quit. Most policy makers, politicians and participants with a commercial interest in cigarettes did not believe any government would be interested in reducing nicotine levels significantly in all cigarettes. Most of the participants thought very low-nicotine cigarettes should be available for sale at a much cheaper price, and policy makers and health people in particular thought alternative nicotine products should also be available to help smokers make the switch from high-nicotine cigarettes.



To investigate views of New Zealand key stakeholders (stakeholders) and smokers on very low nicotine content (VLNC) cigarettes, and a policy mandating that only VLNC cigarettes are available for sale.


Using a semi-structured interview schedule, we interviewed 17 stakeholders and held focus groups with 21 smokers. Questions were asked about VLNC cigarettes and a VLNC cigarette-only policy. Smokers were given approximately 15 VLNC cigarettes to take home and smoke. One week after the focus groups, 17 smokers were interviewed. Data were analysed using a general inductive approach.


Stakeholders and smokers were largely unconvinced of the value of a mandated reduction in nicotine in cigarettes. After smoking VLNC cigarettes, smokers had less interest in them but would support them being sold alongside high nicotine content (HNC) cigarettes at a much cheaper price.


The government is not likely to mandate nicotine reduction in cigarettes if there is a perceived lack of support from stakeholders or smokers. However, they could make VLNC cigarettes available as an option for smokers utilising a differential tax favouring VLNC cigarettes. If this were combined with better access to nicotine containing e-cigarettes, smokers may shift away from HNC cigarettes.

Author Information

Trish Fraser, Director, Global Public Health, Glenorchy; Anette Kira, Independent Researcher, Manawatu.


We thank all the participants in this study. We are grateful to Associate Professor Marewa Glover and Professor Chris Bullen for comments on the draft paper.


Trish Fraser, Director, Global Public Health, PO Box 82, Glenorchy 9350.

Correspondence Email


Competing Interests



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