Some chain-smokers are reluctant or incapable of quitting smoking, but are prepared to try and lessen the number of cigarettes they smoke each day.
However, after studying healthcare literature, a team of Cochrane Researchers could find that very little attention has been given to this alternative of cutting down the number of cigarettes.
The main effort in therapies aimed at smokers has been at helping them to stop smoking completely. But, little thought has been given to the idea of helping them reduce their use. This is partly for the fear of creating the false impression that reducing the number of cigarettes you smoke a day will lead to a corresponding reduction in a person's risk of smoking-related disease.
Nonetheless, the team of Cochrane Researchers found that they could assemble some useful pointers from the currently published data.
Firstly, they found that between 6 percent and 9 percent of people using nicotine replacement therapy delivered by either chewing gum or inhaler managed to reduce their use of cigarettes.
"This may not seem like a large result, but it is a significantly greater proportion than the 1-3% of people who reduced use in control groups where no NRT was given," says lead researcher Lindsay Stead, who works at the Department of Primary Care at Oxford University.
Secondly they found no proof that the treatments that aimed to help people decrease their use diverted them from attempting to stop completely.
"In fact cessation rates were higher, not lower, in nicotine replacement treatment groups," says Stead.
Thirdly, the researchers indicate that there is currently no evidence whether reducing cigarette use or using products that potentially reduce exposure to the most harmful substances in tobacco products (PREPs) has any long-term benefit on a person's health.
"The only clear benefit is that aiming to reduce use often leads to people eventually stopping completely," says Stead.