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Development of a new device to measure ambulatory smoking

Institution: University of California, Los Angeles
Investigator(s): Richard Olmstead, Ph.D.
Award Cycle: 2000 (Cycle 9) Grant #: 9IT-0035 Award: $72,238
Subject Area: Public Health, Public Policy, and Economics
Award Type: Inno Dev & Exp Awards (IDEAS)

Initial Award Abstract
While it appears that most people understand the negative health consequences of smoking, many fail to recognize how smoking represents drug-taking behavior at an extreme level. Each puff from a cigarette produces a “hit” of nicotine that reaches the brain in less than 10 seconds. Multiply this by 10 puffs per cigarette and 20 cigarettes per day, typical values for many smokers, and one can see that nicotine has a very high frequency of use compared to most other addictive drugs. Nonetheless there are few studies that have examined how people typically smoke in careful detail. This is due to the fact that people normally smoke throughout the day and in many different contexts. This pattern is difficult to replicate in the laboratory and devices for field research have, up to now, been unwieldy.

Advances in technology now allow for miniaturized electronics so that smoking can be measured with a lightweight handheld device. This project will test a new device, the CH9900, which is slightly larger than a cigarette lighter. Cigarettes are inserted into the CH9900 and smoked through the mouthpiece like a cigarette holder. This device is capable of measuring a comprehensive set of smoking measures, including puff volume, puff duration, peak flow, puffs per cigarette, etc., with time and date stamping of all recorded data.

In the first study, the device will be tested in 30 smokers. Participants will be observed for two weeks, one week while smoking normally, and one week while using the CH9900 to smoke their cigarettes. Biochemical markers of smoking and self-reported smoking behavior will be collected on a daily basis. These values will be compared to determine whether smoking through the CH9900 is similar to smoking without it. The CH9900 may be modified and further improve based the information collected and feedback from the study participants.

In the second study, the CH9900 will be utilized in a simple test of the effect of nicotine replacement on smoking behavior. Smoking will be recorded using the CH9900 for one week while subjects wear two nicotine patches, and one week while wearing placebo patches. Biochemical and questionnaire data will also be collected. It is predicted that while the total number of cigarettes smoked may not show substantial differences, quantities such as total number of puffs will be significantly different with nicotine vs. placebo patches.

While the development of a device to monitor smoking in detail is clearly a benefit for tobacco use research, this device may also be useful smoking cessation treatment as well. For example, the device could be used to improve compliance in programs where smoking is reduced by a set schedule. More generally, the development of this technology could lead to a large array of recording devices both for smoking research and in other areas.