Randomized, placebo-controlled, double-blind trial of Swedish snus for smoking reduction and cessation
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Background: Epidemiological studies suggest that smokeless tobacco in the form of Swedish snus has been used by many smokers in Scandinavia to quit smoking, but the efficacy of snus has so far not been evaluated in controlled clinical trials. Methods: We conducted a randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled, clinical trial aimed at assessing the efficacy of snus to help adult cigarette smokers in Serbia to substantially reduce, and, eventually, completely stop smoking. The study enrolled 319 healthy smokers aged 20-65 years at two occupational health centers in Belgrade, Serbia. Most of them (81%) expressed an interest to quit rather than just reduce their smoking. Study products were used ad libitum throughout the 48-week study period. The main study objective during the first 24 weeks was smoking reduction. The primary end-point was defined as a biologically verified reduction of GT = 50% in the average number of smoked cigarettes per day during week 21-24 compared to baseline. Du...ring week 25-48 participants were actively instructed to stop smoking completely. Outcome measures of biologically verified, complete smoking cessation included 1-week point prevalence rates at clinical visits after 12, 24, 36, and 48 weeks, as well as 4-, 12- and 24-week continued cessation rates at the week 36 and 48 visits. Results: At the week 24 visit, the proportion of participants who achieved the protocol definition of a GT = 50% smoking reduction was similar in the two treatment groups. However, the proportion that reported more extreme reductions ( GT = 75%) was statistically significantly higher in the snus group than in the placebo group (p LT 0.01). The results for biologically verified complete cessation suggested that participants in the snus group were more likely to quit smoking completely than the controls; the odds ratio (snus versus placebo) for the protocol estimates of cessation varied between 1.9 to 3.4, but these ratios were of borderline significance with p-values ranging from 0.04-0.10. Snus was well tolerated and only 2/158 (1.3%) participants in the snus group discontinued treatment due to an adverse event (in both cases unrelated to snus). Conclusions: Swedish snus could promote smoking cessation among smokers in Serbia, that is, in a cultural setting without traditional use of oral, smokeless tobacco.