The Food and Drug Administration is considering making it a requirement that tobacco firms cut the amount of nicotine found in regular cigarettes. This would make smoking less addictive and help reduce the annual death toll of smoking, which is now 480,000 people.
The idea, the implementation of which might take a number of years, would position the United States in the vanguard of efforts being made all over the world to combat smoking. There is just one other country, New Zealand, that has proposed such a scheme.
The headwinds are quite strong. Tobacco corporations have previously communicated their belief that any proposal that significantly reduces the amount of nicotine would be in violation of the law. And some conservative politicians could view such a regulation to be another another example of the overreach of the government, providing ammo that might be used in the next midterm elections.
There were few specifics provided on Tuesday, but according to a notice that was published on a website maintained by the United States government, a proposed rule would be issued in May of 2023 seeking public comment on the subject of establishing a maximum nicotine level in cigarettes and other products. According to the notice, “Because tobacco-related harms primarily result from addiction to products that repeatedly expose users to toxins, the F.D.A. would take this action to reduce the addictiveness of certain tobacco products, thus giving addicted users a greater ability to quit.” This is because addiction to tobacco products is the primary cause of tobacco-related harms.
The F.D.A. decided not to disclose any more information. However, in a statement that was published on the organization’s website, the agency’s commissioner, Dr. Robert M. Califf.
Similar strategies have been mulled about in order to minimise the reliance that people in the United States have on tobacco products, which coat the lungs in tar, produce 7,000 chemicals, and are linked to cancer, heart disease, and lung illness. Nicotine may also be obtained via the use of e-cigarettes, chews, patches, and lozenges; however, this plan would not have an impact on these items.
“This one regulation might have the largest influence on public health in the history of public health,” said Mitch Zeller, who had just departed from his position as the head of the tobacco centre at the FDA.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, smoking is directly responsible for the early death of around 1,300 individuals every single day.
However, there are enormous challenges to this approach, and overcoming them may take a number of years. Some of the ideas that have been kicked about call for a decrease in the quantity of nicotine found in cigarettes of around 95%. According to specialists, this could put smokers in the United States, who number somewhere around 30 million, into a state of nicotine withdrawal, which includes symptoms such as agitation, difficulty focusing, and irritability, and cause others to look for alternatives such as electronic cigarettes. These products provide nicotine without the majority of the chemicals that are included in traditional cigarettes.
According to the opinions of several experts, dedicated smokers may try to get high-nicotine cigarettes via underground markets or from Mexico or Canada by travelling over the border.