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Open Access Publications from the University of California

Racial differences in the relationship between rate of nicotine metabolism and nicotine intake from cigarette smoking.

  • Author(s): Ross, Kathryn C
  • Gubner, Noah R
  • Tyndale, Rachel F
  • Hawk, Larry W
  • Lerman, Caryn
  • George, Tony P
  • Cinciripini, Paul
  • Schnoll, Robert A
  • Benowitz, Neal L
  • et al.

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Creative Commons 'BY-NC-SA' version 4.0 license

Rate of nicotine metabolism has been identified as an important factor influencing nicotine intake and can be estimated using the nicotine metabolite ratio (NMR), a validated biomarker of CYP2A6 enzyme activity. Individuals who metabolize nicotine faster (higher NMR) may alter their smoking behavior to titrate their nicotine intake in order to maintain similar levels of nicotine in the body compared to slower nicotine metabolizers. There are known racial differences in the rate of nicotine metabolism with African Americans on average having a slower rate of nicotine metabolism compared to Whites. The goal of this study was to determine if there are racial differences in the relationship between rate of nicotine metabolism and measures of nicotine intake assessed using multiple biomarkers of nicotine and tobacco smoke exposure. Using secondary analyses of the screening data collected in a recently completed clinical trial, treatment-seeking African American and White daily smokers (10 or more cigarettes per day) were grouped into NMR quartiles so that the races could be compared at the same NMR, even though the distribution of NMR within race differed. The results indicated that rate of nicotine metabolism was a more important factor influencing nicotine intake in White smokers. Specifically, Whites were more likely to titrate their nicotine intake based on the rate at which they metabolize nicotine. However, this relationship was not found in African Americans. Overall there was a greater step-down, linear type relationship between NMR groups and cotinine or cotinine/cigarette in African Americans, which is consistent with the idea that differences in blood cotinine levels between the African American NMR groups were primarily due to differences in CYP2A6 enzyme activity without titration of nicotine intake among faster nicotine metabolizers.

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