The US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) is busy executing an ambitious anti-smoking campaign to try to give smokers a major push to stop smoking. The question is, what exactly is the damaging activity that is harming people and that must be stopped?
Is it smoking traditional cigarettes, i.e. drawing smoke from burning tobacco into your lungs?
Is it ingesting nicotine, by whatever means?
Is it being manipulated by the tobacco industry, in their ongoing attempt to design, advertise, and sell products to keep you using tobacco in one form or another?
The answer is that it’s kind of all three. In trying to navigate the answers to the questions above, and the weight to be accorded each of the goals that the FDA is taking on, the whole controversy over these different concerns has come to the fore.
The FDA has put itself in the center of the argument over whether anti-smoking campaigns should focus on just that: Stop Smoking, or whether they should encourage the use of purportedly safer or lower-risk tobacco products such as e-cigarettes. The latter tactic would, of course, allow the tobacco industry to continue to thrive.
Said Kenneth Warner, professor emeritus at University of Michigan’s School of Public Health, “This is the single most controversial — and frankly, divisive — issue I’ve seen in my 40 years studying tobacco control policy.”
Options to consider for the campaign include encouraging the use of cigarettes that are so low in nicotine that they’re non-addictive, or e-cigarettes, or a newer electronic pen-like product that heats tobacco, rather than a nicotine-containing liquid as in e-cigarettes, to a point that’s shy of actually burning it. This, says the manufacturer, releases a nicotine vapor that is free of the tar and other toxic byproducts that are produced by burning tobacco.
The FDA’s approach seems to be two-fold: encouraging smokers to quit smoking altogether, and opening opportunities for companies, both tobacco and pharmaceutical, to develop alternative products. The goal seems to be first the elimination of tobacco smoke, and second, the hope that the elimination of nicotine also will follow eventually.
FDA Commissioner Dr. Scott Gottlieb estimates the FDA plan could, in the long run, prevent more than 33 million youth and young adults from becoming regular smokers this century, induce 5 million smokers to quit within one year (and 13 million in five years) and prevent more than 8 million smoking-related deaths by the end of the century.
Information for this article was obtained from AP News and the Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids. Click the image below to access the AP News article and watch the video on the FDA’s anti-smoking action plan.