Breaking the Powerful Draw of Nicotine
By: Sydney Xiong
At one point in the next few years, the 30 million smokers in the US could find that their
usual cigarettes found at gas stations, tobacco shops, and convenience stores will contain such a miniscule amount of nicotine that they cannot get their fix when lighting them up. This is because the Food and Drug Administration is calling for a drastic reduction of nicotine levels in cigarettes in an effort to reduce the health effects of cigarette addiction that takes the life of 480,000 a year.
It would take a few years before the policy could take effect, if it survives the opposition
from the tobacco industry. Health experts say any effort to reduce nicotine in cigarettes to nonaddictive levels would be a radical experiment that has never been implemented by any other countries.
Eric Donny, a tobacco expert at Wake Forest University School of Medicine, who
conducted multiple experiments with low nicotine cigarettes, said that scientists have embraced a 95% reduction in nicotine levels as ideal for helping subjects smoke less. Any higher levels could encourage the subjects to engage in compensatory smoking– such as inhaling deeply or smoking more frequently.
“When you get the nicotine in tobacco low enough, you just can’t get enough nicotine to
maintain the dependence,” said Dr. Donny “Smoking more creates adverse effects, like nausea, because the lungs can only handle so much of a burned substance.”
However, even as tobacco control researchers cheered the F.D.A on for their
announcement, they acknowledge that lowering nicotine levels in cigarette levels could be
enormously challenging for inveterate smokers. In fact, it would be difficult even among the 70 percent of smokers who have said they would like to stop.
“It will be rough for smokers, but anything we can do to prevent a new generation from
getting hooked is a good thing.”
If this were to happen, would the usual smokers go into the pains of nicotine withdrawal
and seek out their full-nicotine cigarettes in illicit markets, or would they turn to vaping, nicotine gum, or other less harmful sources of ways to get their intake?