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Biden Wants to Reduce Nicotine in Cigarettes – Will This Help?

Written by Sarah Friedman
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Smoking is pretty bad, that’s for sure. So bad that the number of smoking deaths a year eclipses the number of opioid deaths, and that’s saying a lot. In a recent report, Biden stated that he wants to reduce the nicotine level in cigarettes, as a way to reduce smoking in general. Can this help though? And why is the research on this topic so conflicting?

The new thing of the Biden administration is that it wants to reduce the nicotine level allowable in cigarettes, but this seems like a strange move when vaping already provides a safer answer. This news site focuses on stories covering the expanding cannabis and psychedelics industries of today. Keep up with everything by signing up for THC Weekly Newsletter, and also get access to a range of deals on tons of products including cannabinoid compounds like HHC-O, Delta 8Delta 9 THCDelta-10 THCTHCOTHCVTHCP HHC. As always, we only advice consumers purchase products they are fully comfortable using.


The damage of smoking

Smoking anything is bad. This is the first thing to really know about smoking. Though tobacco often gets a bad rap, it’s merely a plant. A plant which has been used medicinally for thousands of years, and without a huge death count. Truth is, there are plenty of substances in life which are safe to take one way, and unsafe to take in others. Mushrooms for example are eaten, but they aren’t smoked. So it’s not that weird to say tobacco doesn’t have to be bad, if not used in a bad way.

The real culprit is the act of lighting something on fire, and breathing it in. Smoke inhalation – what smoking is – is the term used to describe the health issue of inhaling too much smoke. Smoke of any kind is a carcinogen by nature, so it matters less what is burning, than that something is burning and inhaled. Some things are worse to breathe in than others, this is also true. Breathing in burning metal or plastic is way worse than tobacco smoke could ever be. However, having said that, processed tobacco is full of chemicals that make the whole smoking experience that must more dangerous.

In terms of how dangerous it is, according to the CDC, approximately 480,000 people die from cigarettes a year, with 41,000 of those attributed to second-hand smoke. This means over 40,000 people a year die from someone else’s bad habit. When broken down, over 160,000 deaths are from cancer, and another 160,000 are from cardiovascular diseases including heart disease, vascular disease, and diabetes. A third grouping of 113,000+ deaths are from respiratory illnesses like influenza, pneumonia, and COPD.

How does secondhand smoke actually effect people? Of the secondhand smoke deaths per year, over 7,000 are due to cancer, and another 34,000 are from heart disease. Simply sitting in the same room as a smoker causes the same deadly conditions to the secondhand consumer, as it does to the person lighting up.

Biden wants to reduce nicotine in cigarettes

It should be remembered that for many years after it was technically known that cigarettes cause dangerous health concerns, they were not only openly marketed, but with lies attached to their safety issues. And they were promoted by the likes of doctors. Though the US government likes to separate itself from its shady activities in the past, it has continually taken money from big tobacco, and for years failed to regulate the industry. Though big tobacco gives less money to congressional representatives than it did in the past, the US government still makes billions of dollars from cigarette taxes.

When it did start to regulate the industry, it changed tack on big tobacco outwardly (while still accepting its money), and began pointing the finger at the entity, while ignoring its own part in everything. But it was involved, just as much as its involved in helping to keep people on opioids by refusing to better regulate the industry; by accepting money from, and promoting policy in favor of, the pharma companies that produce them; and by downplaying better options like the use of ketamine instead. So perhaps this recent rumor from the Biden administration, should be taken with a grain of salt.

A recent report by the Wall Street Journal on the 10th of June, says that Biden wants to reduce the allowable limit of nicotine in cigarettes. The publication stated that though the US government might announce new policy this week, any policy would take several years to craft, and wouldn’t go into effect for quite some time.

The idea of the Biden administration is to reduce nicotine levels until cigarettes are no longer addictive, though how many steps this may take, what levels will be allowed, and what exact end goal there is, have not been stated. As nothing was formally announced yet, this news comes from unidentified white house sources who supposedly spoke directly with the Wall Street Journal.

What happens when nicotine is reduced in cigarettes?

Biden wants to reduce nicotine in cigarettes to make them less addictive, but can this really work? A piece of oft cited research from 2015 points to reduced nicotine cigarettes helping people smoke less and quit, but everything else from before, essentially says that reducing nicotine simply promotes the smoker to smoke more. Which statement is correct? Let’s examine the evidence.

In 2015 a study came out called Reduced Nicotine Cigarettes: Smoking Behavior and Biomarkers of Exposure among Smokers Not Intending to Quit.  The aim of the study was to examined how consumer behavior changes in response to reduced nicotine cigarettes. Seventy-two adult smokers were used for the study. Participants went through a trial period where nicotine levels were gradually reduced by week. It went from 0.6 to 0.3 to 0.05mg emissions, and everyone smoked Quest cigarettes.

According to study results, there was a reduction in nicotine intake when going from 0.3 to 0.05 mg, but not when going from 0.6 to 0.3mg. According to the study, there were “no increases in exhaled breath carbon monoxide levels, smoking intensity, or levels of 1-hydroxypyrene across study periods. No significant differences were observed for smoking urges or measures of nicotine dependence.” This all indicates that reducing nicotine in cigarettes, leads to consuming less nicotine.

This study comes with a myriad of problems though. For one thing, the study lasted for three weeks, and we don’t know what happened to smoking behavior after that. People who smoke, often smoke more or less at different times, but this doesn’t indicate overall behavioral changes. Plus, the study participants were completely aware of everything, as this was not a blind study. This means they knew they were getting less and less nicotine, so their behavioral responses came with that understanding.

Last, this study was funded by an anti-smoking group (Health Canada Tobacco Control Program), has an author who was an expert witness for the FDA, and clearly states “The costs of publication of this article were defrayed in part by the payment of page charges. This article must therefore be hereby marked advertisement in accordance with 18 U.S.C. Section 1734 solely to indicate this fact.” These are massive conflicts of interest, and show a possible informational slant which can call into question the results of this study.

The other story…

Prior to this, research told a different story. In 1984 the study came out Does switching to an ultra-low nicotine cigarette induce nicotine withdrawal effects? In the study, 26 participants were randomly assigned to either a control group or an experimental group. The former group continued smoking as usual, and the latter group was switched to an ultra-low nicotine cigarette instead. Both subjective rating, and plasma nicotine concentration levels, were examined.

Results did find a substantial drop in plasma nicotine levels of 60%, but this was lower than the 90% that it should have been in accordance with the reduction in nicotine levels in the cigarettes. This shows that smokers were compensating by smoking more cigarettes, even if the total nicotine they received, was less.

Another study from 2004 shows a similar thing. In this study, Smoking cigarettes of low nicotine yield does not reduce nicotine intake as expected: a study of nicotine dependency in Japanese males, 458 Japanese men with an average age of 51, participated. A questionnaire was used, along with urine nicotine measurements. Study results showed a nearly halved decrease in urine nicotine concentration from the highest nicotine level to the lowest. However, in reality, it should have been an 11-fold difference, as the nicotine level decreased by 11X. In fact, the study investigators found that “cotinine concentration in heavily dependent smokers was consistently high regardless of the nicotine yield of brands.”

This once again indicates that lowering nicotine levels doesn’t mean smoking less, and instead points to smoking more. When looking at only nicotine decreases in plasma and urine, it’s misleading when not considering the level the nicotine decreased in cigarettes, and if they match up. This is a tactic meant to make it appear that smoking levels went down, when in fact, only nicotine went down, while smoking increased.

The two should match, and if there’s a lesser decrease of nicotine in urine or blood than the decrease of nicotine in the cigarettes, this implies the person smoked more cigarettes to get to whatever level of nicotine they achieved in between. Since the issue is really smoke inhalation, any increase in cigarettes smoked indicates a problem, and a reason for concern over increased rates of damage in the future.

What makes this more confounding, is that there already is an alternative in the form of vapes. Vaping has virtually no death toll, and isn’t associated with cancer or cardiovascular disease. It’s possible in the future we’ll find some issue associated with vaping, but as of right now, this information doesn’t exist. And it doesn’t exist regardless of nicotine content of what’s vaped. Instead of promoting vaping, the government wages fear campaigns against it, and constantly tries to block or dissuade the public from doing it, even though no direct deaths come from vaping, and all issues reported have been related to additives.

This brings up a lot of questions, like why is the government continually talking down the safer option, and instead offering weak measures that have many issues attached? And why are we still talking about nicotine or tobacco at all, when the real thing to be wary of, is smoke inhalation in general?

Conclusion

Biden might want to reduce nicotine levels in cigarettes, but the only indication from both life and research, is that this will increase the amount of cigarettes smoked. Insisting on lowering nicotine levels as a way to combat cancer, cardiovascular disease, or respiratory disease is so backwards in the first place, that expecting anything decent to come out of this, is like ignoring the massive role the government played in getting people hooked in the first place.

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About the author

Sarah Friedman

I am a US born writer, travelling the world and doing the digital nomad thing.

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