Swiss doctors have developed a vaccine against nicotine addiction, which is about to be put to clinical tests. The vaccine could be ready within three to five years.
If the tests are successful, the vaccine could become the cheapest and most effective way to tackle nicotine addiction. One of the doctors behind the vaccine, Thomas Cerny, told swissinfo it was "a potentially important answer to a global problem".
Cerny, an oncologist at St Gallen's cantonal hospital, developed the treatment with his brother Erich, an immunologist and infection expert in Geneva, and researchers at the University of Lausanne.
He says the vaccine would be particularly useful in developing countries, where smoking is on the rise and consumes ever-larger shares of public health budgets.
"Vaccinations are cheap because they don't cost a lot to produce, and you don't need to repeat them often. Usually they are active for a long time, even a decade or more."
Cerny said he was optimistic, as the vaccine had work very well on animals. He said the clinical tests would help determine the dose needed in humans, whether refreshers are necessary, and if so how often.
He said the tests, which will be carried out on heavy smokers and former smokers, will also be used to study any potential side effects. It might be possible to administer the vaccine as a spray.
Cerny says about SFr200,000 is needed to conduct the clinical tests, but that millions are likely to be necessary to bring the vaccine onto the market. He said he was seeking financial help from pharmaceutical companies and the authorities.
He says he was encouraged to develop a vaccine after treating many patients with smoking-related cancers.
"Since we know that this is a rapidly increasing, terrible disease and we don't cure most of these patients, we really have to look for preventive strategies."