On Friday the 28th of July, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA), announced a new comprehensive plan for tobacco and nicotine regulation, which included lowering the amount of nicotine in cigarettes in order to minimize addiction.
VLNCs (very low nicotine cigarettes), will contain nicotine at levels that do not produce physiological effects. However public health experts have expressed concern that these cigarettes will be delivering the same amount of harmful chemicals without the benefits perceived by the smoker, hence could possibly lead them to smoke more.
The economic impact of reducing tobacco addiction
On the otherhand, last Thursday during a tobacco discussion at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health, the FDA Commissioner Scott Gottlieb said that the latest FDA estimates indicate that reducing nicotine levels in combustible cigarettes could prevent 8 million smoking related deaths. Additionally, he said, a significant further 30 million people could be safeguarded from becoming addicted to smoking. “Just imagine the impact this policy could have on treatment costs,” said Gottlieb.
“Currently, we spend about $300 billion each and every year on the direct and indirect costs associated with tobacco-related illnesses. In a world where cigarettes were minimally or non-addictive, the reduction in those overall costs would be enormous.”------------------------------Dr. Scott Gottlieb, FDA Commissioner
A public consultation to be launched soon
The FDA will also be launching a campaign called “The Real Cost”, with the aim of educating young people about the risks associated with the consumption of tobacco products.
Gottlieb pointed out that the agency will also be looking into the use of flavours for tobacco products, namely whether flavours entice young people to start using tobacco, and also whether flavoured reduced-risk products such as e-cigarettes encourage seasoned smokers to switch and quit.
The FDA Commissioner added that a public consultation will be launched pertaining to the flavour issue as well as that of the nicotine levels. One of the main aims of this consultation will be trying to determine whether reducing nicotine levels will encourage the formation of a black market selling cigarettes with regular levels.
Writer: Diane Caruana