Karl Fagerström was born in Sweden in 1946. He studied at Uppsala University and graduated as a licensed clinical psychologist in 1975. At that time, he opened a smoking cessation clinic and invented the Fagerström test for cigarette dependence. In 1981 he earned his doctorate with a dissertation on nicotine dependence and smoking cessation. In the late 70s and early 80s, he served as editor-in-chief of the Scandinavian Journal for Behavior Therapy. From 1983 to 1997, he worked for Pharmacia & Upjohn as director of scientific information for nicotine replacement products. He has worked with Nicorette nicotine gum since 1975 and has contributed to the development of nicotine replacement therapies, such as patches, aerosols, bags and inhalers. From 1975 to 2010, he has been working clinically part-time. From 1997 to 2008, he worked with his private research clinic where he studied various medications intended to treat nicotine dependence. He founded a company, NicoNovum, which developed oral nicotine products under the Zonnic brand.
Currently, he works with his own private consultancy (Fagerström Consulting). He is a founding member of the Society for Research on Nicotine and Tobacco (SRNT) and is currently deputy editor of Nicotine & Tobacco Research. He started the European subsidiary SRNT in 1999, of whichhe was president until 2003. His major research contributions have been in the fields of behavioral medicine , tobacco and nicotine with 180 peer-reviewed publications of which he is the first author of about 110. His main current interests are understanding the positive effects of nicotine and reducing harm and exposure. to tobacco toxins among all those who cannot quit smoking.
He received the World Health Organization medal in 1999 for his outstanding work in tobacco control , and in 2013 he received the Clinical Science Award of the Society for Tobacco and Nicotine Research .