STUDY OBJECTIVE--The aim was to investigate the effect on respiratory health of male middle tar smokers changing the tar and nicotine levels of the cigarettes they smoke for a six month period. DESIGN--This was a randomised controlled trial. Middle tar smokers were randomly allocated to smoke one of three different types of cigarette (low tar, middle nicotine; middle tar, middle nicotine; and low tar, low nicotine) in place of their usual cigarette for a six month period. Main outcome measures were assessment of respiratory health by documenting respiratory symptoms and peak expiratory flow rates, and of nicotine inhalation by measuring the urinary excretion of nicotine metabolites. SETTING--21 local authority districts of England. SUBJECTS--Participants were male middle tar smokers aged 18-44 years. MAIN RESULTS--Postal questionnaires were sent to 265,016 individuals selected from the electoral registers of 21 local authority districts of England; 64% of questionnaires were returned revealing 7736 men aged 18-44 years who smoked only middle tar cigarettes. Of these, 7029 (90%) were sent a health warning and 707 (10%) were not; the latter acted as a control group to assess the effect of the health warning. Of the 7029 men who had received a health warning and were visited at the recruitment stage, 2666 agreed and were eligible to participate in the trial although only 1541 (58% of those who agreed and were eligible) actually started smoking the study cigarettes; 643 men (24% of those willing to participate at the beginning of the trial and 42% of those who actually started smoking the study cigarettes) completed the trial smoking the study cigarettes. Of these, 213 were in the low tar middle nicotine group, 220 were in the middle tar middle nicotine group, and 210 were in the low tar low nicotine group. CONCLUSIONS--This study shows the feasibility of identifying and recruiting sufficient numbers of male middle tar smokers, with adequate numbers completing the trial, to detect any changes in respiratory health over a six month period.
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