2013 SRNT report-out: Dr. Karl fagerstrom symposium

The amazing Jenna Jordan, MPH
Graduate Research Assistant
Out, Proud and Healthy Project
Family & Community Medicine | University of Missouri

A big Network THANK YOU to Jenna for blogging for us from SRNT!

Dr. Fagerstrom speaks at the 2013 SRNT conference in Boston

Today at SRNT I was lucky enough to attend a symposium by Dr. Karl Fagerstrom, nicotine dependence researcher extraordinaire (and creator of the test for nicotine dependence). As a tobacco cessation coach and aspiring researcher I have read a dozen of his articles and use this nicotine dependence measurement scale almost on a daily basis. And I wasn’t the only one in awe, the auditorium was packed to standing room only.

Dr. Fagerstrom’s work began in the 1970s in Sweden and continues to inform tobacco cessation practice today. His talk covered the past, present, and future of tobacco dependence and treatment. He began by describing the discovery that nicotine, in and of itself, is not a harmful chemical and that it could be used in cessation practice. This led to the development of the nicotine replacement patches and gum, which has helped tens of thousands of people quit smoking. For the present, Dr. Fagerstrom described current studies indicating that smokers experience a ‘cigarette dependence’ rather than a ‘nicotine dependence’. Neither humans nor rats enjoy self-administered pure nicotine. In addition, smokers prefer non-nicotinised cigarettes over nicotine patches or gum. With this in mind, he recommends that future research explore the addictive properties of the other chemicals in cigarettes and improve behavioral treatments.

He concluded with his dream of seeing the legal smoking age raised to 21 and seeing this law enforced. Instead of implementing a policy that would force smokers to quit, this could phase out smoking with our younger generations. This is a future I hope to see sooner rather than later and I am proud to be among a group of people dedicated to making it come true.

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