Parents, rejoice! A new nicotine “eating” anti-smoking drug is in the works

Is your teenage daughter or son experimenting with cigarettes? Scientists are researching a new nicotine-eating enzyme and say it can be used for smoking prevention and cessation.

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Does your kid smoke? Your adolescent is at high risk of experimenting with cigarettes or may even be smoking regularly. As an adult, you recognize the dangers of smoking and even the possibility that it might lead to other risky behaviors, including substance abuse. So, what can you do to protect your teen from the harms of smoking?

You don’t want to nag, but you might wonder how you can intervene in this situation in order to help your teen break this addictive habit. Continue reading to learn more, and leave us your questions in the comments section at the end of the page.

Data on smoking

According to studies from the Center for Disease Control and Prevention, nearly all smokers start out by the age of 18, with 99 percent first using cigarettes by age 26.

Across the nation, almost 3,800 teens under the age of 18 try smoking for the first time each day, and about 2,100 young people become daily smokers. Although the use of regular cigarettes is declining, the use of electronic cigarettes, hookah and smokeless tobacco has increased slightly since 2011. In addition, some teens are using multiple forms of tobacco.

More statistics on several different forms of nicotine and their here.

Good news for parents: A new strategy for cessation

However, despite the discouraging data, parents can rejoice because a new nicotine-eating, anti-smoking drug is in the works, which prevents nicotine from reaching the brain through an enzyme that “eats” it. Studies at the Scripps Research Institute show that the enzyme is not difficult to replicate in a laboratory. Comprehensive details of the research were published in the August 3, 2015, edition of the Journal of the American Chemical Society.

An effective enzyme against nicotine addiction?

Yup, you read it correctly.

The lead researcher, Kim Janda, and his associates have been working on this project for more than three decades. The enzyme differs from other anti-smoking products currently on the market that simply substitute the nicotine in the cigarette for nicotine in the cessation product. These products, including lozenges, gum and patches, can be addictive in and of themselves and do not work 80 – 90 % of the time.

So, it works by blocking nicotine from reaching the brain. Specifically, the new enzyme, named NicA2 by the research team, destroys all nicotine in the cigarettes before it reaches the reward center in the brain. Thus, the smoker no longer feels that “rush” that he or she normally receives from smoking. After a while, the habit will no longer bring the smoker any pleasure because nicotine is destroyed before it reaches the brain. The idea is that the smoker will then decide to quit of their own accord.

An ironic discovery

The research team discovered the enzyme or bacterium in dirt from a tobacco field, and it survives by consuming nicotine to produce carbon and nitrogen. Interestingly, tobacco itself produced the enzyme that made the discovery possible. In years to come, millions of smokers might appreciate the irony that the problem led to the solution.

Practical applications for the enzyme

Development is still in the beginning stages, but Janda announced that patients will receive it via an injection from a doctor. His goal is for the shot to last for a whole month. No projected price has been announced yet. Even so, parents can rejoice about this new nicotine-eating, anti-smoking drug in the works and the potential for helping their teen smoker quit before he or she develops a life-long addiction.

Teenagers and smoking questions

Do you have any additional questions regarding teen smoking prevention? Feel free to send them to us via the comments section below. We try to reply personally and promptly to all legitimate inquiries. In case we don’t know the answer to your question, we will refer you to professionals who can help.

About the author
Tyler is a freelance writer/journalist, with past experience as the head content writer and outreach coordinator for HelpYourTeenNow. His areas of focus include: parenting, education, social media, addiction, and issues facing teenagers today.
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