Breaking Nicotine’s Powerful Draw

Millions of smokers could be forced to confront the agony of nicotine withdrawal as the F.D.A. weighs calling for a drastic reduction in the addictive lure of cigarettes.

Breaking Nicotines Powerful Draw

At some point in the next few years, the 30 million smokers in the United States could wake up one day to find that cigarettes sold at gas stations, convenience stores and smoke shops contain such minuscule amounts of nicotine that they cannot get their usual fix when lighting up. Would the smokers be plunged into the agonizing throes of nicotine withdrawal and seek out their favorite, full-nicotine brand on illicit markets, or would they turn to vaping, nicotine gum and other less harmful ways to get that angst-soothing rush? Such scenarios inched closer Powerful Draw to the realm of possibility in June, when the Food and Drug Administration said that it would move toward slashing nicotine levels in cigarettes in an effort to reduce the health effects of an addiction that claims 480,000 lives a year. The agency set next May as its timetable for introducing a fully developed proposal. But many experts hope regulators will champion an immediate 95 percent reduction in nicotine levels the amount federally funded studies have determined is most effective for helping smokers kick the habit.

It could be years before any new policy takes effect, if it survives opposition from the tobacco industry. Even so, health experts say any effort to decrease nicotine in cigarettes to nonaddictive levels would be a radical experiment, one that has never been implemented by any other country. The science of nicotine addiction has come a long way since 1964, when a U.S. Surgeon General report first linked smoking to cancer and heart disease, although it would take another two decades for the mechanics of nicotine dependence to be understood and widely accepted. Tobacco contains more than 7,000 chemicals, many of them harmful when burned and inhaled, but it is nicotine that keeps smokers coming back for more. Nicotine stimulates a surge of adrenaline in the brain while indirectly producing a flood of dopamine, the chemical that promotes feelings of contentment and relaxation. The effects, however, are short-lived, which is why heavy Powerful Draw smokers need a fresh injection a dozen or more times a day.

Eric Donny, a tobacco expert at Wake Forest University School of Medicine who has conducted experiments with low nicotine cigarettes, says many scientists have come to embrace a 95 percent reduction in nicotine levels as ideal for helping study subjects smoke less. Anything higher, he said, can encourage participants to engage in so-called compensatory smoking Powerful Draw inhaling more deeply or smoking more frequently. The studies he and other scientists have run recently used genetically modified tobacco bred to express less nicotine; bringing nicotine down to zero is not an option under the Tobacco Control Act, a 2009 law that gave the F.D.A. the power to regulate the manufacture and marketing of tobacco.

“When you get the nicotine in tobacco low enough, you just can’t get enough nicotine to maintain the dependence,” Dr. Donny said. “Smoking more creates adverse effects, like nausea, because the lungs can only handle so much of a burned substance.” But even as tobacco control researchers cheered the F.D.A. announcement, they acknowledged that any move to lower nicotine in cigarettes would be enormously challenging for inveterate smokers — even among the 70 percent who have said they would like to stop. As it is, fewer than one in 10 adults who try to quit smoking succeed, a reflection of nicotine’s addictive prowess and the limitations of nicotine replacement therapy.

Source: This news is originally published by nytimes