The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has decided to look at a plan to regulate the amount of nicotine contained in tobacco products. Tobacco control advocates have suggested that nicotine reduction in tobacco products may be a way of reducing tobacco use. The US may be the first country to look at this method seriously to potentially produce a less addictive series of tobacco products. Following this announcement several other countries have indicated they may consider the same approach. These countries include Canada, the UK, New Zealand and Finland.
A study in the US in 2005 estimated that a mandated reduction in nicotine levels could reduce the US smoking rate from 23% to only 5%. “Compensatory smoking” was also studied. This type of smoking occurs when people simply smoke more to get the amount of nicotine they want or need. The study concluded that nicotine reduction reduced cravings and withdrawal symptoms with only minimal effects on compensatory smoking.
Tobacco use continues to be a major global factor in public health. According to the World Health Organization, tobacco use kills 6 million people around the world each year including 480,000 in the US alone.
Recently, a company has been given approval for a process to reduce nicotine in tobacco. It seems we now have the motivation and the means to try a new approach to the worldwide tobacco use epidemic. I will be interested to see if this approach is successful. The price of tobacco, not just cigarettes, is sure to rise.