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FDA To Reduce Nicotine in Cigarettes

FDA To Reduce Nicotine in Cigarettes


FDA To Reduce Nicotine in Cigarettes

Food and Drug Administration (FDA) Commissioner Scott Gottlieb announced last week that he wants to cut down on the amount of nicotine in combustible cigarettes in an attempt to reduce their addictive quality among smokers. Such nicotine-limiting measures have been applauded by both anti-smoking advocates and vapers as a reasonable regulation to reduce cigarette addiction and prevent future smokers from getting hooked, according to a report by NPR.

While this is good news for anyone looking at ways to continue a growing trend of smoking cessation in the United States, the FDA has been less than warm towards e-cigarettes and its potential use as a harm reduction tool. In this article, we’ll examine the arguments and potential effects of nicotine reduction in combustible cigarettes, and contextualize that within the government’s overall attitude towards nicotine.

The Statement

Gottlieb made it clear that the FDA is planning to make some major changes to the amount of nicotine in combustible cigarettes, but the rollout of this plan lacking in important specifics, such as how much nicotine was going to be reduced, and how fast the reduction might occur.

"Despite years of aggressive efforts to tackle the leading cause of preventable disease and death in the United States, tobacco use — largely cigarette smoking — still kills more than 480,000 Americans every single year," Gottlieb said in a statement.

"Given their combination of toxicity, addictiveness, prevalence, and effect on non-users, it's clear that to maximize the possible public health benefits of our regulation, we must focus our efforts on the death and disease caused by addiction to combustible cigarettes," he continued.

The FDA also cited research that supported reducing levels of nicotine to 0.3 to 0.5 milligrams per cigarette. Currently, nicotine levels delivered by conventional cigarettes made domestically are in the range of 1.1 to 1.7 milligrams, according to the notice.

Cutting nicotine to 0.4 milligrams is projected to help about 5 million adults smokers to quit within one year, and to prevent more than 33 million people from becoming regular smokers by the year 2100. The shift could reduce the current U.S. smoking rate from 15 percent to as low as 1.4 percent, the FDA said. These numbers seem plausible, but also idealistic in a sense.

FDA and Vaping

Parallel to the news about nicotine reduction in cigarettes, Gottlieb has made news with regard to vaping, recently repeating myths about vaping as a gateway drug for cigarettes and tweeting in support of banning flavored e-liquid. The claims he makes, which are surprising for someone with a vapor industry background such as Gottlieb, center around the appeal of vapor flavors amongst youth while ignoring strong anecdotal data that indicates a wide variety of flavor options is crucial for many adults who've successfully transitioned from smoking to vaping.

"If all we end up doing is addicting a whole new generation on nicotine through e-cigarettes, then we will have done a bad service to this country," he said on "Squawk Box" on March 16.

To the FDA, the use of nicotine itself is a taboo subject, but, as we’ve discussed here before on Breazy, the health concerns and its appeal to teenagers are oftentimes exaggerated and used as a scare tactic that demonizes vaping to the very population that stands to benefit most from its adoption.