by Jason P. Smith
The world of smoking has taken yet another turn in a different direction for seven U.S. states. The change may have a positive impact on those looking to reduce the number of cigarettes they smoke a day, but it may also have some potentially negative aspects as well.
The company Vector Group Ltd. announced recently that it is now selling nicotine-reduced and nicotine-free cigarettes in seven states, including New York, Ohio, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Indiana, Illinois and Michigan.
The cigarettes, marketed under the label Quest, are available in three different varieties. The company has one cigarette with only 0.6 milligrams of nicotine then there is one with half that amount of nicotine, and one that has only trace amounts of the addictive substance.
The new cigarettes are being marketed under the guise of helping people reduce their smoking habits, but there may be a negative side to this that is not apparent in the marketing of these new cigarettes.
"I think this is a really bad idea," said Robin Kolble, RN, coordinator of the student wellness program at the University of Colorado at Boulder. "I think it’s okay if it helps people stop smoking, but nicotine is not the only addictive part of a cigarette."
Kolble, who noted that the Food and Drug Administration does not regulate what goes into cigarettes, is worried about how the product will be sold. If it is not sold as a tobacco product, then children of any age might be able to purchase the nicotine-free cigarettes. Even though there is no measurable amount of nicotine in the cigarettes, it still could be harmful to a person’s lungs.
"There’s no way you can light something on fire and inhale it into your lungs and tell me you think it’s good for you," Kolble said. "Even when they came out with light cigarettes, all smokers did was inhale deeper, which creates deeper lung cancer that is harder to detect. Now they are genetically modifying the tobacco plants to produce no nicotine."
There also have been arguments put forth by the medical community that the nicotine-free cigarettes may be seen as harmless and might encourage nonsmokers to start smoking or possibly lead to former smokers starting to smoke again.
Although those with the cigarette company say it is highly unlikely that this will happen, Kolble said to keep in mind how well the tobacco companies market their products. "They spend approximately $50 billion a year on pushing their product – the health care industry doesn’t have nearly enough money to compare when it comes to educating people," she said. Kolble also noted that Colorado receives $100 million annually from the Master Settlement Agreement with tobacco companies, but due to the state’s budget crisis, only about $15 million goes to tobacco education and research. The rest of the money is spent on things other than tobacco-related projects.
"Tobacco is the number one leading preventable cause of death in the country right now," Kolble said. "Why would someone inhale burning paper – it can’t be good for you no matter what it is, and what is the purpose of it?"