The US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has recently authorized a tobacco company to market a reduced nicotine cigarette as a reduced risk product, despite the fact it contains all the regular carcinogens found in regular cigarettes.
This action is being called the “most ill-judged moves to date,” as these products still produce same toxins as traditional cigarettes but practically none of the nicotine.
While most remain misinformed about the health risks derived from consuming nicotine, public health experts have repeatedly highlighted that it is the tar and other carcinogenic chemicals found in cigarettes that cause disease, not nicotine.
Despite the science on this, the FDA has just granted The 22nd Century Group the right to market its VLN King and VLN Menthol King combusted, filtered cigarettes as modified risk tobacco products. In his blog, tobacco harm reduction expert Clive Bates is calling this move as the agency’s “most ill-judged moves to date,” as these products still produce all the smoke and thousands of toxins as traditional cigarettes but practically none of the nicotine.
“It has done this because these products are reduced in nicotine and, FDA concludes, anyone who is willing to smoke them will experience lower exposures to nicotine. But we have known for a long time that “people smoke for the nicotine but die from the tar” (Mike Russell). This is a product that reduces the nicotine but keeps the tar,” said Bates.
Reducing nicotine does not reduce risk
Similarly, in an article on The Well, professor of medicine and renowned tobacco harm researcher in tobacco harm reduction research at the University of Louisville, Dr. Brad Rodu highlighted that many experts are questioning how VLN cigarettes managed to meet the FDA’s tough MRTP standard, which requires products to “significantly reduce harm and the risk of tobacco-related disease to individual tobacco users and benefit the health of the population as a whole taking into account both users of tobacco products and persons who do not currently use tobacco products.”
This is because, he explained, reducing nicotine does not reduce risk at all, as nicotine does not cause cancer or any of the other diseases associated with smoking. On the other hand, the chemicals which do, have not been reduced at all.
Rodu referred to a fact that Bates pointed out. The “FDA/NIH has financially supported the company’s application by buying its cigarettes and using independent research organizations and investigators in the United States to provide the evidence to support its case.”
The ridiculousness of this move
The professor said that a search of the NIH funding database using the term “low nicotine cigarette” identifies 698 projects totaling $286 million in the past decade. “This does not mean that all of the money was invested in VLNCs, but at the very least it shows that the subject was a buzzword used by researchers to capture considerable federal financial support,” explained Rodu.
In a sarcastic tone, Rodu went on to point out the ridiculousness of this move. “In essence, the FDA is advancing the government’s objective to “create a world free of tobacco (and nicotine) use” by spending hundreds of millions of taxpayer dollars to fund research so that it can authorize a private company’s combustible cigarettes for the purported benefit of smokers and the general population.”