Is addiction to nicotine a problem or part of a problem?Dr. Veita Bland / September 22, 2017
Did you know that in the United States there are more than 480,000 yearly tobacco related deaths? When we think of this we automatically think that addiction to nicotine is the root of the problem. Is that really the problem or is the addiction to nicotine just part of the problem?
There are more than 7000 chemicals in tobacco. Seventy of them are known to be cancer causing chemicals. Others cause heart disease, lung disease and other conditions that afflict a large portion of long term smokers. The key phrase here is “long term smokers. ”
The nicotine itself is not the cancer causing chemical. Nicotine causes addiction to the tobacco products. Those 70 cancer causing chemicals accompanied by the others causing heart disease and lung disease are part of the 7,000 chemicals in tobacco smoke that are the problem.
So how can we decrease the number of people who are addicted to nicotine? The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has been grapling with this problem and it has come up with several radical ideas that were presented in July.
The FDA has the authority to make changes in the amount of nicotine tht can be added to smoked tobacco products. They propose a mandate to reduce the nicotine content of all smoked tobacco products to below that which would cause addiction.
Hopefully, if one is not addicted to nicotine, the number of cigarettes smoked will decline and the toxic effects from the smoke will decrease from less exposure. Since the toxic effects of the smoke for most are long term, FDA is really thinking of ways to positively impact the health of future generations.
The FDA is also soliciting ideas from companies for innovative alternatives to cigarettes. They are seeking ways of delivering the nicotine that people are now addicted to without the chemicals created from burning tobacco. This is a very active program with a near term deadline for submission of these devices.
The FDA is even looking at e-cigarettes that could provide less toxic chemical exposure to the smoker but provide the nicotine. Healthy living advocates are concerned that flavored varieties of e-cigarettes will encourage young people to smoke.
Today cigarette smoking by adolescents has decreased from 14 percent in 2012 to 9.3 percent in 2015. Unfortunately, e-cigarette consumption by adolescents has increased from 2.6 percent in 2012 to 16 percent in 2015. The FDA is therefore right to be concerned about adolescents and their use of e-cigarettes. Perhaps with new and innovative products, a less harmful tobacco product and cigarette can be forged.
Dr. Veita Bland is a board certified Greensboro physician and hypertension specialist. Dr. Bland’s radio show, “It’s a Matter of Your Health,” can be heard live on Wednesdays, 5:30 p.m. on North Carolina A&T State University’s WNAA, 90.1 FM. Listeners may call in and ask questions. The show is replayed on Sirius 142 at 5 p.m. on Wednesdays. Email Dr. Bland at firstname.lastname@example.org.