Smoking Vaccine Home Page

What is the Smoking Vaccine?

In the last few years, several institutions have begun development on vaccines to aid in smoking cessation.  The vaccines are generally based on the assumption that what causes a smoker to continually return to smoking is the rush he or she feels from the cigarette's nicotine.  People who enjoy cigarettes typically identify smoking with feelings of relaxation, sharpness, calmness, and alertness.  The first effects of a puff can be felt in about seven seconds, as the nicotine disperses into the bloodstream and then finds its way to the brain.  There it binds to nicotine receptors, which trigger the release of feel-good chemicals, like dopamine.  These positive sensations can lead to addiction. 

How It Works:

Stop smoking vaccines work by blocking nicotine's path to the brain.  They stimulate antibodies which bind to the nicotine molecules, making them too large to pass through the blood-brain barrier.  Nicotine never reaches the receptors in the brain, so the cigarette doesn't trigger those positive sensations.  When the smoker no longer experiences the familiar rush from puffing on the cigarette, the cigarette becomes less desirable.  One vaccine to stop smoking that could be on the market soon is NicVAX, which is currently a phase III clinical trial, a third trial involving human subjects.  The NicVAX trial involves several injections that take place over a period of a year.  

Why It Might Be Effective:

Nicotine antibodies that are created by this vaccine can circulate for a year or longer in the bloodstream.  This could prove crucial in curbing smoking relapses.  Many people who have quit smoking go weeks, even months without a cigarette, only to be confronted by a particularly hard-to-resist craving.  It could be a stressful situation or just the presence of a friend's cigarette at a party.  If a smoker who has quit experiences a craving and smokes one cigarette, the vaccine's antibodies will make sure the cigarette is less pleasurable than before, and could prevent one slip-up becoming a full-blown relapse.

Now that you know more about what the smoking vaccine is, lets compare it to other smoking cessation products currently on the market.