Smokefree May is the perfect time to kick the habit and the National Institute for Health Innovation (NIHI) invites any
smoker who wants to make a healthy change to sign up for a study that will test cytisine, a natural product which has
been shown to help smokers quit.
The two-year trial, known as Cess@tion
, is funded by the Health Research Council of New Zealand and seeks 800 participants. Alongside the World Smokefree May
theme ‘We’re backing you’, the trial is an excellent opportunity to be inspired by the campaign message: ‘Taituara,
taiwhare, taieke: With backing, even the tallest of ocean waves can be conquered.’
Alongside cytisine, the trial will also test the effectiveness of nicotine e-cigarettes in smoking cessation, building
on NIHI’s e-cigarette research, says Associate Professor Natalie Walker, who leads the Tobacco and Addiction research
group at NIHI. Trial participants will be randomly given cytisine only, nicotine e-cigarettes only, or both.
Cytisine is sourced from and marketed in Eastern Europe but is not yet approved for use in Aotearoa New Zealand. It sits
in the same class as Champix, the most effective quit-smoking medicine available. International research indicates it is
just as effective but much lower cost and has fewer side effects. As a natural compound, cytisine is found in many
plants around the world, including the New Zealand kōwhai tree, giving the product a cultural link to Aotearoa New
Zealand. It works by taking the edge off cravings and makes cigarettes less enjoyable, should someone have a puff.
“Just like any active drug, cytisine must go through a regulatory approval process. The more research that is done,
especially locally, the more likely it is to be approved for use in New Zealand,” says Chris Bullen, director of NIHI.
“As with our other studies with cytisine that have showed it is safe, acceptable and effective at helping many smokers
quit, we have obtained special approval from Medsafe to use cytisine for this latest study.”
Bullen says the trial will provide valuable insights, enhance the knowledge base, and hopefully progress the regulatory
process for cytisine to be approved as a smoking cessation medication in New Zealand and other countries around the
“The evidence to date suggests cytisine is an effective and acceptable tool for people to use to quit smoking, while
other medicines have been less effective,” he says.
“Joining our study not only helps the individual concerned but contributes new knowledge to support people who smoke in
future,” says Walker.
If you, or someone you know, are interested in participating in the trial, visit the Cess@tion website
or facebook page
to register or find out more.