A nicotine inhaler which could offer new hope for smokers trying to give up the habit is already showing promising results, researchers say.
The inhaler, which was developed by the University of Otago, is being trialled on 63 people in the Wellington region - some of whom say using the device has curbed their puffing urges.
Project leader Dr Brent Caldwell, who is part of the university's School of Medicine in Wellington, said the trial was working well and participants were responding positively to the use of the inhaler.
"This is the first time in the world that a highly tolerable pulmonary nicotine inhaler has been trialled which can deliver similar levels of nicotine to that provided by cigarettes.
"Our preliminary results show it will potentially be a huge improvement on current nicotine therapies.''
Dr Caldwell was unable to say exactly how many participants had reduced their cigarette smoking, but said feedback from those involved had been positive.
The inhaler was based on the same design as puffer devices used to deliver medication to asthmatics. Instead of asthmatic medication, users received a short burst of nicotine.
Inhaling nicotine was the fastest way to get the drug to the brain, Dr Caldwell said.
"Our study aims to test whether giving smokers an inhaler that provides a rapid hit of nicotine to the brian helps them to quit smoking when used in combination with nicotine patches.''
Nicotine inhalers were also a cheap form of treatment.
They cost about $3 for one inhaler, which contained about 300 puffs.
"Asthma inhalers are made at 10,000 a minute at big factories and if it's made on that kind of scale it can be done extremely cheaply.''