[117] Research on Nicotine and Tobacco

Over the past 25 years, Prof. Jean-François Etter and his team conducted research on smoking etiology, prevention and cessation. They published widely on smoking cessation trials and various questions related to tobacco dependence and smoking cessation. Their research covers e-cigarettes, nicotine medications, cytisine, Internet- and smartphone-based smoking cessation programs, and the development of scales (questionnaires) that measure tobacco dependence, withdrawal symptoms etc.

The team of Prof. Jean-François Etter also works closely with the Geneva Cancer Registry.

E-cigarettes and heated tobacco

Electronic cigarettes and heated tobacco products are disruptive technologies that may obsolete traditional cigarettes. J.-F. Etter pioneered research on this topic, he started studying e-cigarettes in 2009 and is credited with publishing some of the first scientific papers on e-cigarettes. He published a widely cited analysis of the behavior of e-cigarette users and a comprehensive book on e-cigarettes, the first of its kind on the topic. He is currently conducting 3 different studies on e-cigarettes.

Nicotine therapy

Jean-François Etter explored new ways to use nicotine therapy, in particular for smoking reduction in smokers unable or unwilling to quit, and as a pre-treatment before smoking cessation. He initiated and was the principal investigator of the second randomized trial ever conducted on nicotine replacement for smoking reduction in smokers unwilling to quit.

Internet-and smartphone-based smoking cessation programs

Internet- and smartphone-based interventions are valuable for smokers who cannot use smoking cessation clinics. These interventions are available 24/7/365 and can reach thousands of smokers. Jean-François Etter published the first randomized trial of an Internet-based, automated, interactive smoking cessation trial. Meta-analyses that include this and other trials confirmed that Internet-based, interactive smoking cessation interventions are effective. He is currently conducting a randomized trial testing the efficacy of a smartphone-based smoking cessation program.

Scale development

Valid measurement tools are essential to good science. Jean-François Etter and his team developed and validated several questionnaires that assess dependence on cigarettes, tobacco withdrawal symptoms, attitudes towards smoking, attitudes towards nicotine therapy, self-efficacy, use of behavior change strategies.


Cytisine has been used as a smoking cessation drug in Eastern European countries for decades, but it was almost unknown in the West until J.-F. Etter conducted the first meta-analysis of cytisine for smoking cessation. This influential paper stimulated researchers who conducted several other studies confirming the efficacy and safety of cytisine. Cytisine is pharmacologically close to nicotine and varenicline. Because it is cheap and cannot be patented, cytisine has the potential to produce substantial health benefits in countries that cannot afford nicotine therapy or varenicline.