Cytisine, a plant-based compound used as a smoking cessation aid, has shown promising results in helping people quit smoking. Found in various plant species, this pill-form medication has been found to be more than twice as successful as traditional quitting methods.
First synthesized in Bulgaria in 1964, cytisine is readily available in Europe and Asia but has not yet been approved in the United States and other countries burdened by smoking-related public health issues. However, a recent meta-analysis published in 2023 highlighted the compound’s effectiveness in increasing the chances of successfully quitting smoking by more than two-fold compared to a placebo.
One of the advantages of cytisine is its safety profile, as it has been shown to have no serious side effects. Moreover, limited evidence suggests that it may be more effective than traditional nicotine-replacement cessation aids. Given that smoking is a leading cause of preventable death worldwide, the potential of cytisine to reduce smoking rates is significant.
In the United States, currently approved cessation aids include nicotine replacement patches, gum, lozenges, and prescription treatments. However, there are challenges in getting cytisine approved due to the lack of financial incentive for a manufacturer to support it. This is particularly concerning considering that smoking remains a major public health concern in the US, with 11.5 percent of adults still smoking in 2021.
The consequences of smoking are substantial, with cigarette smoking costing the US approximately $600 billion annually in healthcare spending and lost productivity. It is the leading cause of lung cancer and cancer-related deaths, although rates of lung cancer have been declining since the 1980s. Nonetheless, smoking also has damaging effects on the heart, making it thicker and weaker. The more a person smokes, the worse their heart functions.
Overall, cytisine’s potential as a smoking cessation aid presents an opportunity to further combat the devastating effects of smoking. As research continues and efforts strengthen to address public health concerns, it is crucial to explore and expand the range of effective quitting methods available to individuals looking to break free from smoking addiction.