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Panel: Make Cigarettes Non-Addictive

Broken cigarette (WomensHealth.gov)

(WomensHealth.gov)

The passage of the Family Smoking Prevention and Tobacco Control Act  in 2009 gave the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) authority to regulate tobacco products, and a panel of eight health policy experts recommends that FDA use that authority to mandate the reduction of nicotine levels in cigarettes to non-addictive levels. The panel published their review of research and recommendations in the current issue of the journal Tobacco Control (paid subscription required).

Dorothy Hatsukami of the University of Minnesota Medical School in Minneapolis and Mitch Zeller of Pinney Associates, a pharmaceutical risk management company in Bethesda, Maryland, co-chair the National Cancer Institute’s Tobacco Harm Reduction Network and led this project; Hatsukami was the article’s first author. They held two meetings in the U.S. with non-tobacco-industry scientists across various disciplines, tobacco control policymakers, and representatives of government agencies.

Their article reviews the current science in the area of reduced nicotine content cigarettes and offers conclusions and recommendations for research and policy that emerged from the meetings. Reduction of nicotine in tobacco products, the author concluded, could have a profound impact on reducing tobacco-related morbidity and mortality.

Currently, about 44 million (or 20 percent) of adults in the United States smoke cigarettes. Research cited by the authors found that reducing nicotine to non-addictive levels could potentially reduce smoking prevalence to about 5 percent, particularly in reducing addiction among teens who experiment with tobacco. Other studies they noted found indicate so far that sharply cutting the nicotine in cigarettes does not lead to smoking more lower-nicotine cigarettes; since it is harder to compensate for the low nicotine intake.

Hatsukami, Zeller, and their colleagues recommend that scientific, research and government agencies conduct the research, and set priorities and goals as the next steps toward determining the feasibility of a nicotine reduction strategy.

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