The U.S. Food and Drug Administration announced on Friday that they will be introducing new tobacco and nicotine regulation. While tobacco regulation is nothing new for the agency charged with protecting the public health, the plan for the new FDA tobacco regulation specifically targets nicotine levels in cigarettes. Although the timeline for any regulation remains uncertain, the press announcement and statement made by FDA Commissioner Scott Gottlieb demonstrate a commitment to reducing the frequency of tobacco related diseases and deaths. As potential FDA tobacco regulation continues to develop, there are three questions that you should keep in mind.
3 Questions About the FDA Tobacco Regulation Plan
1. Why regulate nicotine levels?
Given that diseases and deaths caused by cigarette smoking are connected with tobacco rather than nicotine, it may seem counterintuitive to focus regulation on nicotine. With 480,000 deaths per year associated with tobacco use, the FDA has decided that they are better off addressing the use of tobacco than that of the substance itself. Although tobacco is the leading cause of preventable deaths and diseases in the United States, the addictive nature of nicotine in cigarettes continues to fuel smoking. The FDA hopes that they will be able to decrease the overall number of smokers as well as the amount that people smoke by addressing the level of nicotine in cigarettes.
2. How will the FDA implement these regulations?
Although the goals expressed by the FDA are certainly admirable, the process of implementing them may prove to be difficult. In order to achieve the best results, the FDA plans to facilitate public dialogue in the coming months and years. Since interested parties range from individual smokers to the tobacco industry to public health advocates, the FDA will certainly face a wide variety of responses. In the time that the FDA plans to communicate with the public, they will also extend the timeline for new tobacco product review applications. The intention of this extension is to provide the time needed for innovation in the hope that new advances in the industry may provide viable alternative solutions. In short, the FDA tobacco regulation plan includes reducing nicotine levels in combustible cigarettes to non-addictive levels. This is in hopes that this reduction would prevent young people from becoming addicted to cigarettes while also making it easier for adult smokers to quit. Despite this, the exact steps that the FDA will take to achieve this remain unclear.
3. What potential obstacles does the FDA face?
As the U.S. Food and Drug Administration tackles the issue of tobacco use through nicotine, they have acknowledged a couple of obstacles that are likely to arise. One concern is that a reduction of nicotine levels in legal cigarettes will cause the creation of a black market for more dangerous substitute cigarettes. The primary concern is that smokers who are already addicted to cigarettes because of its high nicotine levels will find a way to obtain illegal cigarettes. Since these illegal cigarettes would not be tested nor monitored by the FDA, they could pose even more severe health risks than legal cigarettes. Additionally, some have expressed concern that tobacco companies have already begun to invest their resources elsewhere anyway. As the e-cigarette industry grows, tobacco companies have found other means of distributing nicotine. It remains unclear whether or not e-cigarettes are actually safer than their traditional counterpart. These concerns are certainly on the minds of regulators as they search for effective answers to the problems that tobacco causes. These regulators hope that they may find these answers during the period of public comment.
With so much unclear about the trajectory of FDA tobacco regulation, it is certainly reassuring to know that they plan to address nicotine levels in cigarettes. However, diseases and deaths caused by tobacco continue to plague the United States. While we hope that this changes soon, for now, we must be grateful for the physicians who treat smokers as well as those who want to do their part to address the problem. Are you interested in contributing to solving this problem? There are countless jobs available throughout the country where you can do just that!