Tobacco companies will be forced to reduce nicotine in cigarettes sold in the U.S. to nonaddictive, or minimally addictive, levels, if the Biden administration has its way.
The policy could be announced as early as this coming week, The Wall Street Journal reported Friday. But it likely won’t take effect for several years. The U.S. Food and Drug administration would have to draft a proposed rule and open it for public comment. After it published the rule, tobacco companies could sue, delaying implementation.
Meanwhile, the U.K. government is considering raising the legal age for smoking each year until smoking is effectively outlawed, Bloomberg reported this week, adding that New Zealand plans a similar move that will eventually prohibit smoking.
Nicotine is an addictive central nervous system stimulant derived from the tobacco plant. It’s labeled as “acute toxic” and “environmental hazard” on laboratory chemical safety sheets, according to the U.S. National Institutes of Health National Library of Medicine’s resource PubChem.
While nicotine can cause blood vessels to constrict, in addition to fast heart rate and elevated blood pressure, the greater concern is its addictive properties. It keeps cigarette smokers addicted to thousands of harmful and even deadly chemicals in tobacco that can cause fatal lung disease, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), and cancer, among other ailments, according to the FDA.
Tobacco is the leading cause of preventable disease, disability, and death in the U.S., according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The World Health Organization calls the tobacco epidemic “one of the biggest public health threats the world has ever faced,” adding that it kills more than 8 million people a year, including more than 1 million via second-hand smoke exposure.
Tobacco kills up to half of those who use it, according to the WHO.
This story was originally featured on Fortune.com
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