Can the reduction of nicotine in cigarettes lead to a decrease in tobacco use?

As announced by the FDA on July 28th, the decrease of nicotine content in cigarettes manufactured in the US could very soon be implemented. According to FDA commissionner Scott Gottlieb, the decision aims at making cigarettes less addictive for the youth and to decrease the death toll linked to tobacco. However, it’s hard to assess the impact of such a change since there has been no large-scale test in the past.

Can the reduction of nicotine in cigarettes lead to a decrease in tobacco use?Though it is hard to analyze the impact of this decision on tobacco use in the US, here’s some food for thought. First, cigarettes that contain less nicotine will not have a major health impact: carcinogenic threats linked to cigarettes are caused  by other components than nicotine while nicotine is responsible for the smokers’ addiction. A reduced nicotine content could however lead to reduced addiction levels for smokers, which could enable them to stop smoking more easily.

Besides, according to Forbes, believing that a decrease of nicotine content will automatically lead to lower tobacco use levels might be foolish since there are no reliable studies that can back this argument. A recent report from the CTP (Center for Tobacco Products) has actually underlined the American people’s lack of knowledge regarding the composition of cigarettes. Americans might believe that cigarettes with a lower nicotine content are less harmful (which is obviously not the case) and continue to smoke instead of switching to nicotine substitutes such as electronic cigarettes. To make it clear, a cigarette with a lower nicotine content is as carcinogenic as a classical tobacco cigarette, which is why prevention campaigns are all the more necessary to inform the general public.