Tobacco harm-reduction with novel nicotine products: can electronic cigarettes help smokers stop smoking?

About the project

Smokers who quit smoking substantially reduce their risk of developing a tobacco related disease. This trial tested if smokers who are offered electronic cigarettes or nicotine replacement therapy find them acceptable to use and whether they assist them to stop smoking compared to smokers who are offered nicotine replacement therapy only. The study also compares the impact of advice about using nicotine products as a short term quitting aid with advice that also encourages longer-term use as a substitute for cigarettes. This study is funded by a National Health and Medical Research Council grant and is completely independent from the companies whose products we supplied in this trial.

Why this is important?

Tobacco smoking is a major cause of serious disease and premature death. Nicotine products have been shown to assist smokers to quit successfully. However, evidence suggests that a common cause of failure is not using enough of these products or not using them for long enough. Some smokers who find it difficult to quit or who do not want to stop using nicotine may also benefit from using nicotine products as a long-term substitute for cigarettes rather than just as a short term quit aid. Further, having a wider range of products, including e-cigarettes may help more smokers find a nicotine product that is suitable for them.

Chief Investigators

Dr Coral Gartner, UQ Centre for Clinical Research, The University of Queensland
Professor Ron Borland, The Cancer Council Victoria, University of Melbourne


Fraser, D., Borland, R. and Gartner, C., 2015. Protocol for a randomised pragmatic policy trial of nicotine products for quitting or long-term substitution in smokers. BMC public health, 15(1), p.1.

A disease of the brain: How do neurobiological explanations of addiction influence the attitudes and behaviours of smokers?

Tobacco addiction is increasingly described as a ‘brain disease’ caused by the effects of chronic nicotine exposure. However, there is a scientific debate about whether such medicalisation of smoking cessation assists or deters smokers from quitting. The aim of this study is to explore the impact of promoting tobacco smoking as a ‘brain disease’ on how smokers view smoking, feelings of stigma related to smoking, their motivation to quite, their quitting self-efficacy, and their chosen quit methods. This study was funded by an Australian Research Council grant.

Why this is important?

Recent research on smoking could change the way smoking is understood and lead to new technologies for the prevention and treatment of smoking. We want to know what smokers think because the impact of this information will depend on how well it is understood and accepted by smokers. This research will help to inform public policies responding to new technologies for the treatment and prevention of smoking and existing policies to manage smoking.

Chief Investigators

Professor Wayne Hall
Dr Coral Gartner
Dr Adrian Carter
Professor Jayne Lucke
Dr Brad Partridge


Morphett, K, Carter, A, Hall, W and Gartner, C (2016) A qualitative study of smokers’ views on brain-based explanations of tobacco dependence. International Journal of Drug Policy, 29 41-48.

Morphett, K, Gartner, C, Carter, A, Lucke, J, Partridge, B and Hall, W (2013). Is smoking a brain disease? the attitudes of smokers towards a neurobiological conceptualisation of nicotine dependence. In: Abstracts of the Australasian Professional Society on Alcohol and other Drugs Conference 2013. Australasian Professional Society on Alcohol and other Drugs Conference 2013, Brisbane, QLD, Australia, (6-6). 24-27 November 2013. doi:10.1111/dar.12077

Morphett, K, Partridge, B, Gartner, C, Carter, A and Hall, W (2015) Why don’t smokers want help to quit? A qualitative study of smokers’ attitudes towards assisted versus unassisted quitting. International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health, 12 6: 6591-6607.

Functional Imagery Training for smoking cessation

This study adapted and tested an innovative motivational treatment ('Functional Imagery Training') which uses individually tailored imagery to consolidate motivation, interfere with craving, rehearse coping strategies and enhance self-efficacy. A mobile phone app was developed that cues commitment and coping when abstinence is under treat, using pictures and brief descriptions. Also included in the project were surveys of practitioners and patients on interest and willingness to use the intervention and an uncontrolled pilot with 20 smokers with 3 month follow-up of smoking-related outcomes and qualitative responses. This project was funded by a UQ ECR Grant.


Ford P, Tran P, Keen B, Gartner C. 2015. Survey of Australian Oral Health Practitioners and their Smoking Cessation Practices. Australian Dental Journal: 60 (1):43-51.

Ford P, Tran P, Cockburn N, Keen B, Kavanagh D, Gartner C (2016) Survey of patients attending dental clinics: Smoking and preferences for cessation support. Australian Dental Journal: 61 (2): 219-226.