Prevention Plus: New FDA guidelines on nicotine

In May, Scott Gottlieb was appointed as the new Food and Drug Administration (FDA) chief. Last week, in a major regulatory shift, he proposed cutting nicotine in cigarettes to “non-addictive” levels. Eric Donny, a University of Pittsburgh researcher, and other researchers found that reducing nicotine substantially — by around 90% — leads to smokers being less dependent on cigarettes and smoking fewer of them. The level of nicotine is correlated with the level of addiction. However, “Most of the harm associated with smoking is related not to the nicotine but everything else in the smoke. Reducing nicotine doesn’t make a cigarette safe, it just makes it less addictive,” said Donny.

Gottlieb agrees.

“Nicotine itself is not responsible for the cancer, lung disease and heart disease that kill hundreds of thousands of Americans each year,” he said. “It’s the tar and other chemical compounds in tobacco and in the smoke created by setting tobacco on fire that directly cause illness and death.”

Importantly, as part of the new strategy, the FDA is extending the deadline and giving e-cigarette makers four more years to comply with a rule passed in 2016 that gave FDA oversight of these new products. This means vaping products will be available to the public for four more years completely unregulated. E-cigarettes are marketed as “less addictive” than traditional cigarettes but this may fool some into believing they are a safe alternative. Matthew Myers, president of the Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids, warns that the extension of e-cigarette deadlines “will allow egregious, kid-friendly e-cigarettes, in flavors like gummy bear, cherry crush and banana smash, to stay on the market with little public health oversight.” This is important legislation to watch, and more importantly, it is critical to understand the risks of traditional cigarettes and new e-cigarettes to protect yourself, your children and all of your loved ones. For more information, visit the FDA’s website: www.fda.gov/TobaccoProducts.

And help is always available locally through the Ridgefield Prevention Council: www.ridgefieldpreventioncouncil.org.  

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