Wouldn’t it be great if smokers could no longer become addicted to the nicotine in their cigarettes? It could cause some to quit, but others would gravitate to lower-risk products. This may become a reality sooner than you think.
The Food and Drug Administration has a plan that would lower the nicotine levels in cigarettes so they are no longer addictive. But the plan would also allow products the FDA considers lower-risk to deliver nicotine but without “the deadly effects of traditional cigarettes.”
One such product is the iQOS (pronounced EYE-kose, and some say stands for “I quit ordinary smoking”). iQOS uses compressed tobacco in smaller looking cigarettes called heet sticks that are put into a device and heated, not burned. It is supposed to reduce the tar and other chemicals given off by cigarettes.
Big Tobacco talks about saving lives with new products that deliver fewer chemicals, but anti-smoking activists point out the tobacco industry has lied to the public about the health effects of smoking for more than 50 years. Activists point out filtered and “low tar” cigarettes are prime examples that deceived users into thinking they were safe. When the FDA tried to add graphic warning labels in 2010, the tobacco industry defeated that proposal. And since 2011 the industry has thrown legal challenges at the FDA regarding the use of menthol, which targets minorities and teens who use the products in higher numbers.
The 2009 Tobacco Control Act gave the FDA authority over certain aspects of the tobacco industry including review and sales of new products such as e-cigarettes. This authority also extends to nicotine content in cigarettes. The FDA cannot remove it, but can reduce nicotine to lower, non-addictive levels. The agency also wants to allow a variety of alternative products for smokers who aren’t ready to give up their addiction.
For now Philip Morris and Altria will try to convince the government that iQOS is less harmful than cigarettes. If approved, it would allow the product to be advertised “as a’reduced-risk’ tobacco product, the first ever sanctioned by the FDA.” Since it uses real tobacco, the producers think more smokers would be willing to try it versus e-cigarettes, which produces a vapor from a form of nicotine in a flavored liquid.
However “reduced risk” the iQOS product is, it sends a message to youth and non-smoking adults that it is harmless, much like e-cigarettes have before it. While many e-cigarette users said the devices have helped them quit smoking, many other are combining e-cigarette use with regular cigarettes or other smoked tobacco products so the reduced harm is non-existent.
The problem also lies in that reducing the nicotine and having new products on the market won’t happen at the same time. Do you really think the tobacco industry will not drag the lower nicotine process through the courts as they have with every other process the FDA has attempted to implement for the benefit of the health of the American public? Once again the tobacco industry will win, and the health of the American public will lose.
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