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PRI's Environmental News Magazine

Health Note/Nicotine Vaccines

Air Date: Week of June 28, 2002

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Living on Earth’s Jessica Penney reports on a new vaccine being developed to fight nicotine addiction.

Transcript

Just ahead, the life and hard family times of a man obsessed with corn. First, this Environmental Health Note from Jessica Penney.

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PENNEY: Scientists are developing a unique weapon against cigarette smoking. Researchers at a British drug company are testing a vaccine designed to stop the body from developing a nicotine addiction. Usually, when someone smokes a cigarette, nicotine enters the bloodstream and travels to the brain.

Once in the brain, nicotine gives the smoker a pleasurable buzz and physical addiction begins. But, after receiving a series of these experimental vaccines, the immune system produces antibodies that bind to nicotine and prevent it from entering the brain. Because nicotine doesn’t enter the brain, the smoker experiences no pleasurable effects. And so, no addiction develops.

But, by the same token, smokers can no longer satisfy their nicotine cravings and get a cigarette high. This makes for a possibly unpleasant, but effective, way to quit smoking, since the smoker is forced to go cold turkey. And, once the nicotine addiction is broken, the vaccine negates cigarettes’ pleasant effect on the brain so there’s no incentive to pick up the habit again.

And, if fighting nicotine addiction wasn’t enough, the company is also working on an anti-cocaine vaccine. That’s this week’s Health Note. I’m Jessica Penney.

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CURWOOD: And you’re listening to Living on Earth.

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