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Press release | A new way to quit: why smoke when you can inhale?

Smokers in the Wellington region are being invited to take part in a ground-breaking trial of a world-first nicotine inhaler which has been developed by ASPIRE2025 researchers at the University of Otago, Wellington.

This is the first time a genuine nicotine inhaler will be tested that can actually deliver nicotine to the lungs and to the brain within a few seconds after inhalation. Because it replaces the nicotine ‘hit’ of smoking, the inhaler (similar to an asthma inhaler) is the only nicotine replacement therapy that has the potential to be as rewarding and as enjoyable as smoking a cigarette.

The nicotine inhaler is based on the same design as puffer devices used to deliver medication to asthmatics, but instead delivers a short burst of nicotine to people who are trying to give up smoking.

“This approach is an innovative and practical way to help smokers give up smoking. It’s as rewarding as smoking a cigarette, while also being highly tolerable and pleasant to inhale,” says project researcher Dr Brent Caldwell.

“Many smokers get frequent strong urges to smoke when they are trying to quit. What they need is an instant way to satisfy those urges, and the quickest way to do this is to inhale nicotine.”

Dr Caldwell says the new nicotine inhaler is potentially a huge improvement on current therapies which include nicotine patches, gum, and lozenges.

Project leader Professor Julian Crane notes that, until now, nicotine inhalers have either been too harsh to inhale, or the nicotine replacement therapy is absorbed too slowly via the mouth and throat instead of a rapid “hit” to the brain via the lungs.

“One of the problems with current nicotine replacement therapies is that they’re relatively slow acting and not especially easy to use, and most smokers go back to cigarettes after a few months,” Professor Crane says.

“We believe our inhaler will improve on current nicotine replacement because it provides an instant hit of nicotine, which is what smokers need when they feel that desperate desire to light up.”

Research shows that although the vast majority of smokers would like to quit, 90 per cent fail because of the very strong addictive qualities of nicotine. Current therapies only help about 10 per cent of those who use them to quit. New Zealand smoking rates are still at 17 per cent of the adult population, a figure that needs to reduce dramatically to reach the 2025 goal of a smoke free New Zealand.

The new inhaler will allow smokers to get the rapid pleasure of a nicotine ‘hit’, without the hundreds of harmful chemicals in cigarette smoke.

The free ‘Inhale’ quit smoking trial is funded by the Health Research Council and is inviting smokers in the Wellington region to take part. The trial is placebo-controlled, so half the participants will use a placebo inhaler. However all participants will also receive active nicotine patches to use in combination with the inhalers to ensure everyone in the trial gets at least one active treatment. The trial will run for the next year through the University of Otago, Wellington, located adjacent to Wellington Hospital.

For more information on taking part in this free quit smoking trial, or to register for the trial, visit — or complete this secure contact form:

Media coverage:
Nicotine inhaler gives instant ‘hit’ – Dominion Post, 21 June.

Nicotine inhaler popular with smokers – Otago Daily Times, 31 July.

Like us on facebook: Nicotine Inhaler – the inhale study at the University of Otago Wellington

Learn more about the INHALE study.

For more information contact:

Brent Caldwell
University of Otago, Wellington

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