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The Family Smoking Prevention and Tobacco Control Act in the United States and the World Health Organization Framework Convention on Tobacco or Health ratified by over 170 countries render scientific investigations into the abuse liability, harm, and effects of tobacco more critical than ever. A key area to explore relates to the potential regulation of nicotine content in cigarettes. Determining the nicotine content per cigarette below which smokers reliably reduce their consumption of and dependence on cigarettes, an idea proposed almost 20 years ago (Benowitz & Henningfield, 1994), could be a powerful approach to reduce the abuse liability and consequent harm from cigarettes. However, this approach is laden with potentially complex issues. Many of these complications can be studied using animal models, but they require a particular perspective. Herein, we review several challenges for animal researchers interested in nicotine reduction as examples of how this perspective dictates new approaches to animal research. These include defining the threshold nicotine dose for maintaining self-administration, evaluating the differential impact of various implementation strategies, assessing the factors that could interact with nicotine to alter the reinforcement threshold, describing the role of cues in maintaining low dose nicotine self-administration, and examining individual differences in response to nicotine reduction. Researchers who study tobacco using animal models have the opportunity to play a central role in the regulatory science of tobacco and conduct studies that directly inform policy decisions that could impact the lives of millions.


Eric C Donny, Tracy G Taylor, Mark G LeSage, Melissa Levin, Deanne M Buffalari, Danielle Joel, Alan F Sved. Impact of tobacco regulation on animal research: new perspectives and opportunities. Nicotine & tobacco research : official journal of the Society for Research on Nicotine and Tobacco. 2012 Nov;14(11):1319-38

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PMID: 22949581

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