A proposal unveiled by the head of the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) Friday would cut nicotine in cigarettes to “non-addictive” levels. In a major regulatory shift designed to move smokers toward potentially less harmful vaping. This news came late in the day and comes at a critical time. This is true for many who have worried about public health and harm reduction policies.
FDA Commissioner Scott Gottlieb said, “Nicotine itself is not responsible for cancer, the lung disease and heart disease that kill hundreds of thousands of Americans each year”. He further went on to spell out the death warrant to big tobacco and lay a clear path towards vaping. Furthermore, he discussed how science is proving it is healthier than combustible cigarettes. He aims his target on big tobacco and directly threatens them with this statement.
“It’s the other chemical compounds in tobacco and in the smoke created by setting tobacco on fire that directly cause illness and death.”
The overall outlook for traditional tobacco products appeared grim. Some critics warn the idea of gradually reducing the addictive ingredient in cigarettes, nicotine. They say it might look helpful on the surface, it could cause other serious issues. Those who continue to smoke for nicotine addictions run the risk of making things worse. Robert West, professor of health psychology at University College London, points to the fact that as smokers drag on cigarettes harder in order to get the nicotine they need, leading to more exposure to the harmful tar. He argues that unless nicotine eliminated quickly, comprehensively, and in all available tobacco products this likely to happen.
However, the open acknowledgment from FDA Commissioner Scott Gottlieb about the vaping and how it now may be part of the solution is the good news many had hoped for. After all, he is a cancer survivor and physician. During his confirmation as FDA Commissioner on May 9, he was already expected to be friendly toward the vaping industry. He had even previously held a financial interest in the industry. But it was during these hearing on whether to advance his nomination for the FDA position, he said vaping may have the potential to wean smokers off combustible cigarettes and be less harmful.
Currently, the FDA is currently reviewing IQOS, a product from Altria Group Inc and Philip Morris International. This product heats tobacco instead of burning it. Many industry experts have noted some large tobacco companies have seen these regulations coming. Many, like Philip Morris, have invested in vaping technologies. In addition to liquid nicotine products, they have also been looking into smokeless devices. This has put them in an uncomfortable spot. As the vast majority of vapers are previous smokers, they often hold resentments towards these companies for making them addicted for so many years. Due to this, many of these companies use new brand names to promote their alternative products. For some companies, convincing vapers to these products may be what saves them from fading into history.
Since the Obama administration, the vaping industry has faced unfair scrutiny and has been fighting to differentiate themselves from big tobacco. Regulations that group them together with tobacco has hurt progress greatly. The one that has been looming for some time is the enforcement of a 2016 rule that gave the FDA oversight over vaping from 2018. This has been a concern for many, as they believe the regulation of vaping is a way to hand control back to big tobacco. Countries like the United Kingdom have long recommended vaping as a way to reduce the harmful effects of cigarette smoking. A lot of focus has been on the FDA recently to see how the new director would tackle these issues. This is some of the best news we’ve heard in years.