Non-Addictive Cigarettes May Soon Be A Reality: FDA Plans To Strictly Regulate Nicotine Levels
A recent announcement from the Food and Drug Administration reveals that the agency will be pursuing regulations that will reduce the amount of nicotine in cigarettes to non-addictive levels, in an attempt to lower the rates of diseases and deaths due to cigarette smoking.
According to the FDA, data shows that the use of tobacco continues to be the top cause of avoidable diseases and fatalities in the United States, as is responsible for 480,000 deaths each year. Also, tobacco also “causes substantial financial costs to society, with direct health care and lost productivity costs totaling nearly $300 billion a year.”
Therefore, the FDA has announced what they call “a new comprehensive plan for tobacco and nicotine regulation” that was developed to “serve as a multi-year roadmap to better protect kids” and “significantly reduce tobacco-related-related disease and death.”
Although the FDA is focusing on lowering the nicotine in traditional cigarettes, regulations on other products such as electronic cigarettes and hookah will have more time to put changes in place.
This, despite the fact that the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention state that e-cigarettes have been the most popular tobacco product among both middle and high school youth for the last few years.
Still, the agency confirms that standards and rules for all recently regulated products will be privy to the new federal plan to regulate nicotine, stating:
“Under expected revised timelines, applications for newly-regulated combustible products, such as cigars, pipe tobacco, and hookah tobacco, would be submitted by Aug. 8, 2021, and applications for non-combustible products such as ENDS or e-cigarettes would be submitted by Aug. 8, 2022.”
The FDA is expected to release guidelines soon regarding how the new policies will be enforced. But as to the next step, the FDA says they intend to initiate “…public dialogue about lowering nicotine levels in combustible cigarettes to non-addictive levels through achievable product standards.”
These new regulations could spell big trouble for Big Tobacco. The FDA can’t ban tobacco, and nicotine itself isn’t cancer-causing, but nicotine is responsible for creating the addiction that keeps people buying more and more cigarettes. Moreover, those cigarettes that do have cancer-causing agents.
However, the United States is only one market. While other countries could follow suit, currently huge countries such as China and India offer substantial growth for overseas manufacturers such as Philip Morris International.
A Reversing Trend
The good news is that the decades-long war on Big Tobacco is undoubtedly working. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), only around 15% of American adults (36.5 million) age 18 and older were smoking cigarettes in of 2015. That’s down from nearly 21% in 2005, and more than 40% back in the mid-1960s.
However, an estimated 2,500 youths initiate smoking every day and therefore, represent a new generation of smokers who, sans intervention, could fill the spots of those who die early due to nicotine addiction.
Are Electronic Cigarettes The Answer?
While it appears that the e-cig is likely much less harmful than traditional cigarettes, there is also some evidence that they are still troublesome. For example, a 2014 study by National Jewish Health revealed that liquid vapor from e-cigarettes damaged epithelial cells in the user’s airway in minutes – thus causing them to be more vulnerable to viral infections.
Another study (2015) from Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health researchers found that 92% of 51 flavored liquids contained three chemicals known to have a negative effect on a person’s lungs.
Biotech Company Offers Big Tobacco A Plan For Non-Addictive Cigarettes
The 22nd Century biotechnology company states that it has over 200 patents that allow it to manipulate the amount of nicotine in tobacco plants. Moreover, they have the ability to genetically modify tobacco, and they’ve been working on it for about two decades, according to Henry Sicignano, chief executive of 22nd Century.
Sicignano told Reuters that the company can make non-addictive cigarettes with up to 97% less nicotine than traditional cigarettes. This fact means it is the only company with tobacco that is below what health regulators believe to be non-addictive.
Currently, 22nd Century has about 80 employees a yearly revenue of $16 million. Much of this comes from regulators like the FDA who use its tobacco to conduct clinical trials. To date, it has received orders for more than 24 million cigarettes with 25 trials underway. Also, the company already sell. low-nicotine non-addictive cigarettes in Spain.
British American Tobacco, the world’s largest international tobacco company, has a four-year research contract with 22nd Century worth up to 14 million, and one that gives it the right to undergo an exclusive global licensing agreement with the company.
~ G. Nathalee Serrels, M.A., Psychology