Dear smokers: Take a deep breath. The Food and Drug Administration—which regulates the manufacture, import, packaging, labeling, advertising, promotion, sale, and distribution of cigarettes, among other things—recently announced it plans to set a cap on the amount of nicotine in cigarettes. The purpose, according to a press release on the agency’s website, is to reduce cigarettes’ addictiveness, and in so doing “reduce youth use, addiction and death.” An estimated 480,000 deaths per year are linked to smoking; in the United States, it is the top cause of preventable death. Meanwhile, some 70 percent of this country’s 31 million adult smokers say they would like to quit. But even as more than half of them recount their active efforts to give up the habit, just 7.5 percent are successful. To assist these desperate smokes, the FDA has indicated it will issue a new rule in May 2023, but it has not established precisely when it intends to implement the new nicotine standards. In response to these announcements, tobacco manufacturers likely are gearing up their plans to protest the change, and any lawsuits they file could take a long time to resolve. Thus, unlike the removal of cigarettes from many store shelves, the effort to reduce amounts of nicotine could take years. In other words, for the foreseeable future, quitting nicotine is still going to be a drag.

Source: Andrew Jacobs, “Breaking Nicotine’s Powerful Draw,” The New York Times, August 2, 2022; “Assessing the FDA’s Latest Moves on Nicotine and E-cigarettes,” http://www.hsph.harvard.edu, July 26, 2022; Christina Jewett and Andrew Jacobs, “F.D.A. Aims to Cut Down on Smoking by Slashing Nicotine Levels in Cigarettes,” The New York Times, June 21, 2022; “FDA Announces Plans for Proposed Rule to Reduce Addictiveness of Cigarettes and Other Combusted Tobacco Products,” fda.gov, June 21, 2022; Kathy Katella, “Are Reduced-Nicotine Cigarettes Coming?” yalemedicine.org, August 3, 2022