Vaccine and Smoking
by Mommy MD Guide Rallie McAllister, MD, MPH
Most parents strongly caution their children about the dangers of smoking cigarettes, but sadly, even the best heart-to-heart talks aren’t always effective. Many kids will try smoking, and some will develop a lifelong addiction to nicotine.
If parental lectures don’t always work, maybe a vaccine will. Researchers at Weill Cornell Medical College recently developed a new vaccine to treat nicotine addiction, and a single dose of the vaccine protects against nicotine addiction for a lifetime—at least in mice.
In the journal Science Translational Medicine*, the scientists reported that the vaccine uses the animal’s liver as a factory to continuously produce antibodies that gobble up nicotine the moment it enters the bloodstream, preventing the powerfully addictive chemical from reaching the brain and the heart.
The scientists hope that this vaccine will ultimately help the millions of smokers who have tried to kick the habit and failed using every available stop-smoking method. Studies show that 70 to 80 percent of smokers who try to quit start smoking again within just six months. After receiving the new vaccine, former smokers wouldn’t receive any pleasure from smoking, since the nicotine in the cigarettes wouldn’t reach the brain, where it once produced pleasurable sensations.
An estimated 20 percent of American adults smoke. While it’s the 4,000-plus toxins within the burning cigarette that cause the health problems associated with smoking, the nicotine in the tobacco is what keeps smokers hooked. Smoking is blamed for one out of every five deaths in the United States.
The researchers speculate that one day, it might be possible to vaccinate children so that they never start smoking in the first place. But there’s a lot more work to be done in the laboratory before the vaccine becomes available on the market. Until then, moms and dads should keep talking to their kids about not smoking, and set a good example while they’re at it.
Martin J. Hicks, Jonathan B. Rosenberg, Bishnu P. De, Odelya E. Pagovich, Colin N. Young, Jian-ping Qiu, Stephen M. Kaminsky, Neil R. Hackett, Stefan Worgall, Kim D. Janda, Robin L. Davisson, and Ronald G. Crystal. AAV-Directed Persistent Expression of a Gene Encoding Anti-Nicotine Antibody for Smoking Cessation. Science Translational Medicine, 2012 DOI: 10.1126/scitranslmed.3003611