I am really quite passionately against smoking, I really hate it. Asides from the obvious health impact it’s just gross. Which is unfortunate because all my girlfriends have been smokers. Mercifully, my current partner quit smoking over a year ago in favour of an e-cigarette, so called vaping. Whilst this is still gross it is, undeniably, not as bad for her; it’s very unlikely to kill her. Whereas, with cigarettes, they are the only legal consumer product that, when used as intended, will kill half of all long-term users.
In my naivety, I had imagined that my girlfriend would eventually give up on the vaping but, if anything, she is more addicted to her little metal cylinder than she ever was to the tobacco filled ones. The problem is that the liquids combusted inside the chamber are full of nicotine. This makes them useful for people trying to quit the real thing but just as significant a problem if they then subsequently want to quit vaping.
It is this key addiction that the FDA is now looking to combat. In a strategy posted last week, the FDA has set out a plan and a timetable for reducing the quantity of nicotine in cigarettes and other products to non-addictive levels over the coming years. This will hopefully stop children becoming addicted in the first place and help quitters quit.
Commissioner of the FDA, Scott Gottlieb, said, “Because nicotine lives at the core of both the problem and the solution to the question of addiction, addressing the addictive levels of nicotine in combustible cigarettes must be part of the FDA’s strategy for addressing the devastating, addiction crisis.” He continued, “Our approach to nicotine must be accompanied by a firm foundation of rules and standards for newly-regulated products. To be successful all of these steps must be done in concert and not in isolation.”
The FDA has given the industry several years to get the relevant applications submitted and for a public consultation to be conducted. However, it isn’t all good news. Academics have warned that a gradual reduction in nicotine levels of cigarettes will simply mean people smoke more cigarettes than they normally would, thereby exposing themselves to increased levels of the stuff that actually does them harm, tar. It could also fuel a substantial black market in imported cigarettes.
Only time and careful study will tell what the long term impact of the policy will be. Ultimately, people are still free to make their own decisions; the best we can do is to give them the best information to make an informed decision and then to make that decision as easy as possible to carry through. Good luck to all the quitters out there.