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Close to 50 Sydneysiders with a nicotine habit have already volunteered to be part of a world-first trial of a new — and cheaper — stop-smoking medication.

But researchers at the University of NSW’s National Drug and Alcohol Research Centre are looking for even more participants to take part in the study of the quit-smoking aid.

Trial leader Ryan Courtney said the study was comparing cytisine — a natural plant extract — with another smoking cessation aid, the more expensive prescription-only varenicline.

Generic photo of cigarettes. Close up of an Ashtray on a table with shalow depth of field Picture: iStock

As part of the study, trial participants have been receiving free medications as well as support to help them give up smoking.

They are also being paid for their time. Figures from Australia’s online Health Tracker show about 10 per cent of adults on the northern beaches smoke — below the national average of about 13 per cent.

Dr Courtney said almost 500 people across NSW had put their hand up to be part of the study.

“We would like to have 1266 smokers involved,” he said.

“If successful (cytisine) may help cut down the high smoking rates in Australia by making this cheaper and natural alternative widely available.

“Cytisine had very promising results in a recent New Zealand trial compared to nicotine replacement therapy but there has not been a trial in Australia. And this a rare opportunity providing free quit support.”

A trial is being conducted to help people to quit smoking. Picture: iStock

Participants would need to be available for telephone interviews and check-ins for seven months.

Rob Haslam, of Beacon Hill, who is part of the trial, said it had been more than 100 days since his last cigarette.

Mr Haslam, 36, started smoking when he was 16 and ended up smoking up to 20 cigarettes a day.

“I feel better. It’s like a dull heaviness has been lifted off my chest,” he said. “I’ll be telling my mates to think about getting involved.”

Respiratory physician Patricia Hullah said using aids to help stop smoking was something she discussed with her patients in her rooms at Frenchs Forest.

“It’s really exciting that this trial may lead to another option for my patients to use,” Dr Hullah said.

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It has been reported that, in World War II, Russian soldiers smoked the golden rain acacia plant to fight off the symptoms of nicotine withdrawal. Overseas, manufacturers extract the active ingredient from the acacia seeds and turn it into pills.

For information on the trial call 1800 290 612 or email