In a “historic” move, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has announced its decision to reduce nicotine content in cigarettes. The agency has now started a regulatory process to ensure that cigarettes are much less addictive.
FDA Commissioner Scott Gottlieb described it as the first step in the law making process to ensure regulation of nicotine levels under the FDA’s tobacco product standard. To seek feedback from the public, the FDA has left the nicotine notice open for the next 90 days.
The Director of the FDA’s Center for Tobacco Products, Mitch Zeller, said that despite making efforts many American adults fail to quit smoking due to the addictive nature of nicotine, which is indeed a matter of concern. The FDA is keen on understanding public reactions to the move and if they would like such a step to be implemented all at once or in phases.
In July 2017, the FDA had made public its comprehensive plan to regulate nicotine and tobacco that would also serve as a multi-year roadmap with safeguarding minors from tobacco and preventing related deaths. According to an FDA-funded study, reducing nicotine levels could lower the smoking rate to a mere 1.4 percent as compared to the existing 15 percent. This roughly translates to preventing at least 8 million tobacco-related deaths by the end of the century, which is definitely a blessing in disguise. According to FDA sources, they propose to reduce nicotine levels to 0.4 milligrams per gram of tobacco filler.
Experts say nicotine levels can be tweaked by genetic engineering, chemical extraction and leaf blending. However, the FDA says it is worried if the latest move would trigger the possibility of an illegal trade in high-nicotine cigarettes. Moreover, many wonder if chain smokers would smoke even more to make up for the low-nicotine levels. Therefore, public opinion makes a huge difference in proceeding further with a formal proposal.
Commenting on the proposal, Matthew Myers, president of the Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids, an antismoking group, said the move would be significant if the FDA is quick to work on it and finalize the rule. “While this issue has been discussed conceptually for years, this is first time we have a government agency saying it is achievable, feasible and can be implemented in a way that doesn’t cause serious negative consequences,” Myers said.
Leading an addiction-free life
Just as in the case of any substance, tobacco can push unware users toward addiction, causing harm to their physical as well as mental health. According to the World Health Organization (WHO), tobacco claims nearly 7 million lives each year. Experts attributed more than 6 million of those deaths to direct tobacco use while the remaining could be the outcome of passive smoking.
However, the key to overall well-being and leading an addiction-free life depends on an individual’s readiness to seek medical intervention. Generally, personalized behavioral therapies at a reputed rehab are time-tested ways to combat substance use disorders and deal with compulsive drug-seeking urges, and take over again the reins of one’s life.
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