How the FDA’s Anti-Smoking Efforts May Save Big Tobacco
FDA officials are proposing regulations that will force tobacco companies to decrease the amount of nicotine in cigarettes. The thinking behind this is that if cigarettes have less nicotine, fewer future generations will get hooked and more people will drop the habit (weaning themselves off, essentially).
This proposal focuses on a second issue as well. In addition to requesting nicotine levels to be decreased, making cigarettes non-addictive, the FDA is also asking to allow lower-risk products to be sold that do not have the same deadly effects as traditional cigs.
And this is how the organization’s anti-smoking efforts may, in fact, save Big Tobacco.
While the FDA is proposing new regulations that will essentially wipe cigarettes off the market, they are also opening new opportunities for creating alternative smoking options for customers. Tobacco giant Phillip Morris International has already begun production of a new product. If it is approved by the FDA, the product could launch as early as February 2018.
Now the FDA is in the middle of one of the stickiest debates in the health industry in a while. “This is the single most controversial, and frankly, divisive, issue I’ve seen in my 40 years studying tobacco control policy,” said professor Kenneth Warner of University of Michigan’s school of public health. Though no debate has started yet, he’s right.
‘Reduced Risk’ Smoking
Because the FDA is also allowing these reduced-risk products, Big Tobacco will likely thrive for years and years to come. Now, these companies will switch their efforts from cigarettes to creating e-cigarettes and other devices that are currently considered to be lower risk.
There hasn’t been enough time to gather research on these products to truly be able to consider them to be less risky though. E-cigarettes have been around less than a decade and, while companies claim they are harmless, there hasn’t been any data to prove so.
However, FDA officials see providing some kind of tobacco alternative is necessary for the success of their anti-smoking campaign. “We still have to provide an opportunity for adults who want to get access to satisfying levels of nicotine,” said FDA Commissioner Dr. Scott Gottlieb. The key is to do so without burning tobacco. If the plan works, Gottlieb believes 8 million smoking-related deaths could be prevented.
For people who have been fighting to knock Big Tobacco down, this is disappointing. Many activists believe the focus should be on helping people to stop smoking, not on finding healthy alternatives for smoking. After all, tobacco companies have made claims about safer tobacco products in the past that have been proven false. This also provides a pathway for Big Tobacco to create new, addictive products and continue to thrive in the future. (Especially with more and more young people picking up an e-cig.)
Right now, only about 15 percent of American adults smoke. The FDA will set out on its crusade this month, nonetheless, because smoking is still the number one preventable cause of death and illness in the United States. Although the process will take years, eventually the nicotine in cigarettes will be decreased and controlled by the FDA.
The FDA essentially gained authority over Big Tobacco in 2009. The organization gained authority over certain aspects of the industry, including the amount of nicotine in cigarettes. Even though it has been eight years, very little has happened to change the industry since then. This is the FDA’s first big step in trying to change the industry.
What do you think? Will this allow Big Tobacco companies a new way to make even more cash? Leave your thoughts in the comments.