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White House proposed a rule that would lower nicotine levels in cigarettes

UMMC Tobacco Treatment Specialist says rule is aimed at helping smokers quit
Posted at 7:54 PM, Jun 21, 2022
and last updated 2022-06-21 23:23:24-04

BALTIMORE — The Biden Administration revealed a proposed plan that would require tobacco companies to reduce nicotine levels in cigarettes.

The White House said on Tuesday that the goal is to reduce addiction, and possibly, get more people to quit smoking.

This is all part of President Joe Biden's pledge to reduce cancer deaths by 50 percent over 25 years.

The U.S. Surgeon General reports that 87 percent of adult smokers start before 18 years old, and then become addicted.

“Because tobacco-related harms primarily result from addiction to products that repeatedly expose users to toxins, FDA would take this action to reduce addictiveness to certain tobacco products, thus giving addicted users a greater ability to quit,” the White House said in a statement.

Tobacco specialist talks about White House proposed rule on cigarettes

Julia Melamed, a registered nurse and certified tobacco treatment specialist with the University of Maryland Medical Center Tobacco Health Practice, located at its Midtown Baltimore Campus, told WMAR-2 News that this rule is aimed at encouraging smokers to quit.

“They are looking to require that tobacco companies reduce the amount of nicotine in cigarettes in hopes that it will discourage people from continuing to smoke, since nicotine is the most addicting component of a cigarettes,” Melamed said. “If you reduce the content, it may deter people from picking up more cigarettes.”

Leveling tobacco in cigaretts

According to the Washington Post, the plan was was included in the Biden Administration’s “unified agenda,” a compilation of planned federal regulatory actions that was released Tuesday.

The administration said the FDA intends to develop a proposed tobacco product standard “that would establish a maximum nicotine level in cigarettes and certain finished tobacco products.”

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The White House said that every year 480,000 people die prematurely from a smoking-attributed disease.

“We are definitely excited that President Biden is prioritizing helping people stop smoking,” Melamed said. “We do hope this doesn’t encourage people to try other kinds of tobacco or nicotine as a replacement, such as vapes or e-cigarettes, because those aren’t safe alternatives to cigarettes.”

Quitting smoking is one of the most challenge things people can do, according to Melamed.

However, she said, people coming off nicotine addictions will likely need support systems.

That’s where Melamed, and the University of Maryland Medical Center Tobacco Health Practice comes in.

They are there to help by calling 410-328-8141, or by visiting its website here.

“I think some people will have a hard time with it if they aren’t given additional support with stopping smoking,” Melamed said. “Smoking is often a source of comfort for people because it makes people safe and it changes how our brain responds to threats. If you are taking away something that has been a comfort to somebody, maybe since they were a teenager, and you are not offering any additional support with stopping smoking, that could be a very hard time for them.”

According to The Washington Post, the decision to pursue a rule to lower nicotine levels is just the first step in a long process.

The Post reports that it could take at least a year for the Food and Drug Administration, which regulates cigarettes, to issue a proposed rule. After that, the FDA would have to sift through comments from the public before issuing a final rule.

Opposition could delay or derail the effort — especially if the regulation was not completed before Biden left office. A president elected in 2024 could tell the FDA to stop work on an unfinished rule. The tobacco industry, which is sure to be fiercely opposed to such a drastic change in its products, could challenge a final regulation in court, according to The Washington Post.

“This is absolutely critical. Tobacco use is one of the leading causes of death in the United States, and is a major cost in healthcare expenses,” Melamed said. “I think if we can address this issue in our communities, it is not only about making us healthier, but also about addressing health disparities and promoting health equity for everyone.”