Public health ant tobacco addiction experts largely approve of a recent move by the Biden Administration to limit the nicotine in cigarettes sold in the U.S. to ‘non-addictive’ levels – but do fear it could spur some to smoke more than before.
The plan was unveiled by the White House on Tuesday, as part of a greater effort to lower tobacco use in the U.S. – especially among teens and minority communities – and to reduce cancer deaths over the coming decades.
Experts tell DailyMail.com that the move will likely prevent more people from becoming addicted to nicotine, though positive results may not be seen for years.
One expert warns that some heavily-addicted nicotine users will just start smoking more cigarettes to get their fix, causing even more bodily harm to themselves in the process.
Experts agree that bans reducing nicotine available in cigarettes can help reduce smoking, but are split on bans for e-ciggs
Dr Michael Steinberg, the director of the Tobacco Dependence Program at Rutgers University in New Brunswick, New Jersey, told DailyMail.com that this move could be highly effective.
‘I think reducing nicotine to non-addictive levels in cigarettes has potential to be the most impactful policy by the FDA since cigarettes entered the market,’ he explained.
He said that stopping people from experimenting with cigarettes is largely impossible, as a curious mind will always try things at least once.
Dr Michael Steinberg (pictured), the director of the Tobacco Dependence Program at Rutgers, says that it could be the most impactful policy by the FDA since cigarettes entered the market
Significantly reducing the nicotine in each cigarette will lead to a majority of people being turned off by a cigarette after using it just once, and lead to less long-term smokers.
‘There’s nothing inherently pleasurable about inhaling smoke into your lungs,’ he said.
Cigarettes contain two main ingredients, nicotine and tobacco. The former is highly addictive, Steinberg says it is one of the most addictive legal substances.
Tobacco is not addictive without nicotine contents, but its use can expose a person to all kinds of risks, including many types of cancer, lung and heart issues.
By removing the addictive contents from the cigarettes, there would be little reason for anyone to use them.
The reduction would be significant as well, with Steinberg estimating that a cigarette manufacturers may have to reduce nicotine levels in their products by around 90 percent to comply with regulations.
Dr Michael Weaver, medical director of the Center for Neurobehavioral Research on Addictions at the University of Texas McGovern Medical School, in Houston, agrees with the move as well.
‘I think it’s a good idea. Its going to take a while to implement and there will be pushback from the big tobacco companies,’ he said, expecting a long legal battle in the future.
There are some concerns, though. These regulations are clearly directed at people who are not smokers, to prevent them from picking up the harmful habit.
Dr Michael Weaver (pictured), medical director of the Center for Neurobehavioral Research on Addictions at the University of Texas, says there is little evidence supporting the idea that e-ciggs help reduce cigarette use
While those who are already addicted to nicotine may be able to ween themselves off of the drug with the lower nicotine amounts, some may end up smoking more to get their fix, Weaver explains.
In the process, they will be inhaling more tobacco – and other harmful ingredients – in order to get their normal fix.
The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has campaigned against the nicotine and tobacco industries in recent years, and the directions from the White House are just the latest in the long line of restrictions placed on these products.
Flavored nicotine and synthetic nicotine e-cigarette products have been in the agency’s crosshairs, with regulators forcing the products to individually apply for approval to avoid being pulled from shelves.
One of the biggest e-cigarette company’s, Juul, is expected to lose its ability to market in the U.S., after a Wall Street Journal report revealed its application is likely to be rejected.
Steinberg is a proponent of the flavored e-cigarette bans, but does think that non-flavored products have value as they could help some smokers ditch the bad habit.
Weaver also agrees, but sees less value in e-cigarettes overall.
‘Electronic cigarettes were never designed or marketed to help people quit smoking… they have not been successful in doing that,’ he explained.
He says that only around ten percent of people that have attempted to quit smoking using the devices have done so successfully, while the majority become ‘dual users’ – those who use combustible and electronic nicotine devices.