The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) recently announced its intent to significantly cut the amount of nicotine currently found in cigarettes.
Products presently on the market may contain up to 29 milligrams of nicotine per cigarette depending on the brand. The FDA hopes to cut the amount of nicotine in cigarettes down to “non-addictive” levels. Experts are skeptical about the approach and remain unsure as to what would qualify as a “non-addictive” level of nicotine. Some recommend levels should be brought down almost 95 percent.
“In 2016, the FDA finalized a rule extending their regulatory authority to cover all tobacco products, include vaporizers, vape pens, hookah pens, e-cigarettes and all other Electronic Nicotine Delivery Systems (ENDS),” said Dr. Daryl Dias, a cardiologist at the St. Elizabeth Healthcare Heart and Vascular Institute. “This by itself was a very positive step in efforts to reduce tobacco abuse, addiction and its devastating consequences.”
Tobacco use accounts for nearly 500,000 deaths per year in the United States and contributes to substantial healthcare costs.
Most adult smokers begin smoking before the age of 18 and, as of 2015, nearly one in 17 high school seniors admitted to being a daily smoker. The FDA hopes the new approach and ensuing policy will curb tobacco use among minors; experts warn that as many as 5.6 million lives of those Americans younger than 18 will be cut short due to complications from smoking and tobacco use.
“Almost 90 percent of adult smokers started smoking before the age of 18, and every day in the US, nearly 2,500 youth smoke their first cigarette,” said Dr. Dias. “Regulations to limit access to nicotine products and lowering Nicotine levels will be an important step in the right direction.”
Local and state governments are taking their own measures to curb the use of tobacco products in their communities. Three states – Hawaii, California and New Jersey – recently raised the legal age to purchase tobacco products to 21. New York City made the same move in 2013.
“Nicotine greatly increases the risk of heart disease, lung disease and cancer,” said Dr. Dias. “If we can decrease addiction numbers, we can substantially reduce the number of heart attacks, stroke, lung disorders, cancer and death.”
The benefits of quitting smoking are significant and can have an immediate impact. The American Heart Association reports a 50 percent drop in your risk of future heart disease in the first year after your last cigarette. After 15 years, your risk of heart disease and stroke return to the levels of a non-smoker.
If you’re looking to quit smoking, St. Elizabeth Healthcare offers a free four-week smoking cessation program developed by the American Cancer Society. The programs are offered throughout the year at multiple locations throughout Northern Kentucky and are easy to work into your current schedule.
“I applaud the FDA [for] taking on this challenge and am confident their legislation will reduce suffering and death in our community,” Dr. Dias said. “St. Elizabeth is taking multiple steps to reduce nicotine dependence and I encourage all NKY residents who use nicotine to [take advantage of] these programs.”
Quit Now Kentucky and Commit to Quit Kentucky also offer free services throughout the state to support members of the community in their journey to living a tobacco-free life. If you are unsure of your options or which option is best for you, consult with your doctor about potential medications and treatment options.