A research company in North Carolina is testing new experimental cigarettes made of genetically altered tobacco to lower the nicotine content by 97 percent while preserving all the other tastes and smells and rituals for smokers of conventional cigarettes.
One study of the test cigarettes will follow about 500 smokers over six months to determine whether they are more likely to quit if they switch to those cigarettes quickly or gradually, the New York Times reported.
The experimental cigarettes are produced by a Massachusetts company, the 22nd Century Group, which holds 98 patents for genetic manipulation of tobacco plants to reduce or increase the amount of nicotine in cigarettes.
Joseph Pandolfino is chief of 22nd Century, which altered the tobacco plants.
The National Institutes of Health in North Carolina bought nine million of these cigarettes, marked "for research purposes only," as part of a broadening scientific effort to find ways to regulate cigarettes so that they are non-addictive.
The research, led by Dorothy K. Hatsukami, a professor of psychiatry at the University of Minnesota, and Eric C. Donny, associate professor of psychology at the University of Pittsburgh, will use about 1.5 million of the recently acquired cigarettes.