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Will New FDA Regulations Backfire and Lend Big Tobacco a Hand?

Government tobacco regulation has been a topic of discussion for years.

Today, the house approved a bill titled, “Family Smoking Prevention and Tobacco Control Act” that would allow the FDA the power to regulate the sale of tobacco products and the ingredients they contain.

For instance, tobacco companies would be banned from adding fruity flavors or additives designed to hook young smokers.

Look Dad, I Can Smoke, Too

pic-candy-ciggysDepending on your age, you may remember the candy cigarettes given to kids. I remember eating them and mimicking my parent’s smoking habits. In those days, the dangers of smoking was downplayed and the uphill battle to expose their risks had not yet kicked in.

Recently, R J Reynold’s Camel No 9 marketing tactics were similar. They aimed their campaign at young women smokers with packaging that is dressed up in pretty pink, a light and luscious slogan, and parties offering gifts. If this bill makes it through congress, perhaps the FDA will take steps to curb actions that attempt to entice young smokers to the negative effects of smoking tobacco products.

We wonder how closely the FDA will view all the harmful additives in cigarettes, and how much of a difference it will make in the end. The FDA does not have a strong track record in keeping toxic substances out of food or personal care products. Therefore, how well will they regulate products we inhale or chew?

Another thing to consider are the existing cigarette ingredients. If they are to be “grandfathered in” like the cheap ingredients found in many personal care products, the FDA could end up allowing more toxic substances in consumer items than they already do.

Imagine the FDA regulation of tobacco products backfiring and thus supporting Big Tobacco’s idea to manipulate FDA regulation by advertising that their products as “FDA Approved.”  This would give people the wrong idea: that there is a safe cigarette.

Hopefully, by the time this bill is approved, it will be well thought out. At least the government is attempting to take the lead in addressing the unchecked power over people’s health that Big Tobacco has had for years.

Times are changing, this is a good thing.

Future of Nicotine Levels in Cigarettes Uncertain

Washington – The Food and Drug Administration may soon have the ability to regulate sales, distribution and advertising of tobacco products, but it would not be allowed to require removal of nicotine from cigarettes.

Nicotine, the most addictive ingredient in a cigarette, increases the level of the dopamine neurotransmitters in the brain.

Dopamine controls many important responses in the brain, such as behavior.

Nicotine spreads in the brain within a few minutes of the first inhalation, creating feelings of reward, which then cause the smoker to continue smoking.

“People may smoke for non-nicotine reasons, but it is the nicotine that is the primary addictive component of cigarettes,” said Dr. Allison Chausmer from the National Institute of Drug Abuse.

American Lung Association Graph of Chemicals in CigarettesAlthough the FDA would not be able to get rid of nicotine altogether under the bill being considered by Congress, it would have the power to reduce nicotine levels in tobacco products.

The possible benefits for smokers, just like the bill, remain debatable.

A study by the National Institute of Drug Abuse found that tapered reduction of nicotine in cigarettes over a four-week span led one-fourth of smokers who were not trying to quit to spontaneously stop smoking after returning to their regular cigarettes.

“If a cigarette has nicotine levels that are below the level that people find rewarding, it may result in a reduced incidence of smoking initiation and/or increased incidence of quitting,” Chausmer said.

Chausmer also said that if the FDA lowers the nicotine content of cigarettes, “Fewer people will become addicted, and those who are addicted may find it easier to quit.”

However, smokers’ behavior varies, and some, if faced with lower nicotine levels in cigarettes, might smoke more to achieve the same nicotine satisfaction. Chausmer noted that smoking more cigarettes would mean spending more money and taking more time away from work or friends because of today’s smoke-free workplaces and restaurants.

The bill that would give the FDA regulatory power was approved by a House committee last week and will move to the House floor in the coming months.

Source: Farah Khan, Medill Reports, Northwestern University