Smokers are keen to pop sachets of tobacco or nicotine into their mouths to help them quit the addiction, a New Zealand study has found.

Researchers are trying to find quit-smoking products that are acceptable and effective to add to the existing range of state-funded nicotine replacement therapy and the drug Zyban - to boost a smoker's chance of quitting the habit permanently.

Just 10 per cent of people who use nicotine replacement therapy stop smoking long-term.

The study by Otago University at Wellington compared "snus" oral tobacco sachets and Zonnic oral nicotine (peppermint or fruit flavoured sachets), with the currently available nicotine gum.

The sachets are placed between the cheek and the gum to release nicotine, the addictive substance in tobacco, but because New Zealand's only nicotine tradition is inhaling it in cigarette smoke, the first research step is to test acceptability of the new therapies.

The study's publication in the British journal, Nicotine and Tobacco Research, coincides with the parliamentary inquiry into the tobacco industry and the effect of smoking on Maori. Many who have made submissions to the inquiry want more done to help smokers quit alongside tough new measures to restrict the supply of tobacco.

Most people in the Wellington-based study reported a strong desire to use the oral sachets to quit smoking, lead researcher Dr Brent Caldwell and colleagues said in their journal paper.

"[They] preferred snus and Zonnic, which both had significantly fewer gastrointestinal side-effects than gum and resulted in greater reductions in smoking," Dr Caldwell said. "[Zonnic and snus] look like attractive and effective options to help smokers reduce smoking or quit as they're easy to take, people like the impact and they suppress withdrawal symptoms."

He said nicotine, when divorced from the harmful parts of cigarette smoke, was a relatively safe product. And unlike some chewing tobacco products, snus was not associated with an increased rate of mouth cancer.

One of the study's participants, a 70-year-old man who asked not to be named and who subsequently stopped smoking without any quit-smoking products, said he didn't particularly like any of the trial therapies, although he disliked snus the least.

"I had been used to drawing on a cigarette, whereas these therapies were in a sense invasive in my mouth."

But if they could help end smoking - "an insidious evil which previously had been socially acceptable" - they should be made widely available, he said.

The researchers are now recruiting smokers for a trial to test the effectiveness of a nicotine mouth spray.

Dr Caldwell said smokers using patches doubled their chance of quitting if they also used a Nasal nicotine spray.


* Three products: nicotine gum, oral tobacco pouches, oral nicotine pouches.
* 63 smokers used each product for a fortnight.
* Pouches were preferred to gum.
* Smoking reduced 42 per cent during nicotine pouch fortnight; 37 per cent with tobacco pouches; 33 per cent with gum.