A useful little trick in trying to improve the world is to understand why something is happening before attempting to change that world. Our response to little old ladies falling over and breaking their hips is going to be different dependent upon our analysis of whether it’s gravity or that the world sucks. If we’re to deal with the opioid crisis we need to know whether it’s clean prescription pills killing people or the lack of them. That second can’t be dismissed out of hand, at least some of those overdose deaths come from people not being able to get pills anymore and thus graduating up to black market heroin laced with fentanyl.
Solutions can only be found when causes are known. Which brings us to this idea of low nicotine cigarettes in order to save lives:
Cigarettes would contain less addictive nicotine — making them less attractive to smokers — under an “unprecedented” plan the Food and Drug Administration announced Thursday.
Stripping cigarettes of all or most of their addictive power could lead 5 million adults to quit smoking within a year of the plan going into place and another 8 million to quit within five years, according to an analysis published Thursday in The New England Journal of Medicine.
By 2100, the plan would prevent 33 million people who are now children or young adults from ever taking up tobacco, saving 8 million lives.
The idea of reducing nicotine to non-addictive or “minimally addictive” levels is the “cornerstone” of a comprehensive tobacco control plan announced in July by FDA Commissioner Scott Gottlieb.
It’s an idea, certainly, but the question is whether it’s a good one? Will it achieve that target, for example, of fewer people smoking fewer cigarettes?
My reading is that Gottlieb is full of it here. Because he’s got matters entirely the wrong way around – this will lead to more deaths from cigarette smoking, not fewer.
So, why is it that people smoke cigarettes? Yes, that’s right, because they produce a nicotine dose and nicotine is, as noted, addictive. So, what’s likely to happen as we reduce the dose of nicotine in any one cigarette? People will smoke more cigarettes to gain their desired dose, won’t they? Note that we do know this could happen. The introduction of light cigarettes led to a change in the location of smoking induced cancers. Doctors started to see more in the lower lungs as people were taking deeper drags….
Which is a problem. For it’s not the nicotine which is the dangerous part of smoking. It’s all the other crud that fills the lungs as a result of the nicotine delivery method. This is why vaping is so much less dangerous than smoking itself. So, people smoke more to gain their dose and harm done by smoking rises or falls? As I say, I’d plump for rises.
Another observation is that if people wanted low or no nicotine they’d simply stop smoking anyway, wouldn’t they? So lowering the content of cigarettes isn’t going to change that either way.
Finally, we’ve an entirely practical consideration, consider that vaping again. So, in order to do this we go out and buy nicotine containing liquid. Which, well maybe, could be added to a cigarette and then dried, right? So that smokers would be able to make their own high nicotine cigarettes. Obviating the very control method being proposed.
Bringing us neatly around to, well, what do we do about all of this? The answer being that we all know smoking kills. So, those who wish to smoke should be left alone to get on with it. It is their life to end after all.