Vanilla flavoured gum may cut nicotine withdrawal effects, study

By Jane Byrne

- Last updated on GMT

Related tags Gum

New research from the US shows that some flavours of chewing gum are effective in reducing the negative effects associated with nicotine withdrawal such as anxiety.

Chewing gum may be a useful adjunct to existing smoking cessation treatments that is easily accessible, low in cost, and simple to administer, claim the researchers based at universities in Texas and Oklahoma.

The study, published in the journal Addictive Behaviors, ​reports that the research was supported by a grant from leading chewing gum manufacturer, Wrigley, with the principal scientists Lee Cohen and Frank Collins declaring no conflict of interest.

The authors said that they aimed to determine the effect of three different gum flavours along with a no gum control on symptoms of negative affect associated with nicotine withdrawal in young smokers.

The study

The study’s participants include 49 smokers of university-attending age.

The article states that interested participants were excluded based on the fact that they were not regular gum chewers, had a history of jaw pain that precluded the use of chewing gum, current use of medications or treatment for depression and/or stress, alcohol consumption of more than 40 units per week, and medically unstable conditions including dental problems.

The authors explained that three gum flavours were used in the trials including peppermint, vanilla, and baked apple cardamom, and the research was conducted over a four week period with the participants asked to abstain from smoking for 48-hours each week.

According to the article, peppermint was chosen because it is the most widely used gum flavour in the US while the other two sweet, non-commercially available flavours were selected based on the belief that these would be perceived by participants as relaxants.

In order to determine if potential differences observed between gum conditions were due to the specific flavour of gum chewed as opposed to a greater frequency of gum use for any one flavour, each condition was compared using a main effects contrast using SPSS, said the researchers.

The analysis, they explained, indicated all flavours of gum were chewed at approximately the same frequency over the 48 h abstinence period suggesting that any potential differences observed across gum flavours were not due to a greater frequency of chewing gum for any one flavour.


The researchers found that compared to the no gum control, participants in two gum conditions reported lower levels of anxiety, dysphoria, and tension.

Vanilla and baked apple cardamom flavoured gum resulted in lower levels of negative affect but peppermint flavoured gum generated similar results to the control, they reported.

Chewing gum continues to demonstrate its effectiveness as an aid for smokers during periods of abstinence ranging from 3 to 48 hours, found the researchers, who maintain that their findings, combined with the results of Yagyu et al and Cortez-Garland et al., suggest that flavour may be critical in helping people more effectively cope with the negative affect associated with nicotine withdrawal.

“Due to the well-documented risk of smoking and the difficulty individuals who smoke face during the cessation process, such a behavioral substitute that may positively influence the symptoms of negative affect associated with nicotine withdrawal may be quite useful,”​ they comment.

Further investigation

The researchers stressed though that study participants were not attempting to quit smoking but were instead asked to abstain from smoking for four different 48-hour periods.

“For this reason, study conclusions cannot be easily applied to smokers who are attempting to quit smoking permanently and are using chewing gum to manage symptoms during a cessation attempt.

Future research should examine the possible difference between those wishing to manage symptoms temporarily (e.g., movie theatres, workplace) versus those attempting to quit smoking permanently,”​ they concluded.

Source: Addictive Behaviors
Published online ahead of print:
Title: The effect of chewing gum flavour on the negative affect associated with tobacco abstinence among dependent cigarette smokers
Authors: L. M. Cohen, F L. Collins Jr., J. W. VanderVeen, C. C. Weaver

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