How Powerful is the FDA?
Did you know that half a million Americans die from smoking related illnesses each year? And did you know that smoking is the most preventable cause of death? Perhaps that is why the FDA made an unprecedented move to mandate tobacco companies to reduce the amount of nicotine in cigarettes to a yet unspecified, minimum amount. The theory behind this policy is to render cigarettes unattractive so that smokers will turn to alternatives, such as vaping devices, or nicotine gum or patches. However, to my way of thinking, this reasoning is erroneous.
The FDA must be unaware that the most popular e-cigarette manufacturers, Puff Bar and Juul, for example, have found a way to deliver in a single hit a stronger dose of nicotine than one gets from a cigarette. So, vaping devices deliver just the same amount of nicotine as do cigarettes. In fact, Puff Bar overcame Juul’s popularity when they figured out how to deliver the fruity, fun flavors that kids love in a synthetic form of nicotine in non-refillable cartridges that are not yet regulated. So, Congress is scrambling to close that loophole and regulate synthetic nicotine in liquid form in non-refillable cartridges. These “legal” dope pushers are cunning!
But, all these moves by the FDA must make the e-cigarette manufacturers very happy to be anticipating new customers. The manufacturers of the Nicotine patch and Nicotine gum must also be happy to know that they will be getting repeat customers, as well as the cigar and pipe tobacco companies. And the tobacco companies, such as Altria, must be gearing up their production lines in anticipation of selling more cigarettes for the same money with even less nicotine. It’s a win/win for everyone except the customers.
In exploring the decreased use theory, this would be good time to share my experience with Nicotine gum which was one method I used to stop smoking. I was given the 5 mgs which I found to be very unsatisfying as they didn’t really seem to get rid of the cravings. So, I was then given 10 mgs. After that, I never wanted to go back to the 5’s! This method didn’t stop me from smoking. It just made me find a smart way to keep getting a bigger dose. But, chewing nicotine was not really satisfying to my lungs that were craving nicotine and familiar toxins, so I went back to cigarettes.
When a person develops an addiction to a substance, such as nicotine, the body is developing a tolerance for that substance. That means it takes more and more of nicotine for a smoker or vaper to be comfortable. One’s tolerance level increases over time, and becomes the bottom line for an addict. Without getting that tolerance level filled, the addict will engage in drug seeking behavior. In other words, if the FDA cuts back the amount of nicotine in our smokes, we will smoke more, or find ways to augment the amount of nicotine we get each day, no matter what!
I am confounded why the government would think that by controlling the amount of nicotine in cigarettes and in e-cigarettes that somehow, the regulation will control the behavior of the ones who are hooked on it. Remember what happened during the Prohibition? Did that stop people from drinking alcohol?
When a person is addicted, that substance comes in front of everything else. One’s life revolves around making sure the addict gets the required amount each day. The need for nicotine comes before one’s health, one’s family, one’s self-esteem even. We know it is bad for us. Nevertheless, people hooked on nicotine feel compelled to keep doing it. So, is the FDA really expecting people to just give up because they are making it inconvenient? The only benefit might be to dissuade more people from starting at all. But more likely, I fear it will create a black market.
Please don’t mistake my skepticism and “push back” as advocating for smoking and vaping. I am merely saying that, given what I know about how this addiction works, lasting recovery from nicotine is an inside job. Unless and until the addict is motivated to stop for their own reasons, they will not be pushed. On the other hand, reducing the nicotine levels in cigarettes and e-cigarettes may raise awareness to a sufficient degree that it helps the addict come to terms with their own dependency, thereby breaking through that wall of denial that would keep their behavior in place.
I just wish the people who regulate these substances understood what is essential to recover fully from one’s dependency on nicotine. There is no recovery by merely replacing nicotine, and recovery doesn’t happen by cutting down. Nothing short of complete abstinence will allow the miracle to happen. But the brain must follow the body as well. The thinking of the addict needs to change so that nicotine is no longer seen as the solution, but as the problem. That is why I offer 90 days of follow-up. That’s the amount of time it takes to cause new pathways in the brain.
Here is what a recent vaper, Kate, had to say about my program: “Stopping vaping with the Choose a Smokefree Program was the best decision I have ever made for my health. It was so much easier than anything I tried before. I am not the least bit struggling, even though my husband is still vaping. With Carol you will be in good hands.”