The U.S. Food and Drug Administration has proposed lowering the quantity of nicotine in cigarettes to levels that are only moderately addictive, but there has been worry that the reduction in nicotine could worsen anxiety in smokers who may already struggle with mood disorders.
A recent study demonstrates that while smoking cigarettes with nicotine at 5% of the recommended amount can aid smokers who are nervous or depressed in quitting, it does not exacerbate the issues that caused them to start smoking in the first place.
Professor of public health sciences and psychiatry at Penn State University School of Medicine and the study’s principal investigator Jonathan Foulds said, “There do not appear to be any worrying, unforeseen repercussions of having to switch to very low nicotine cigarettes.”
Contrarily, it seems that when offered reasonably quick assistance with follow-up sessions and nicotine replacement medication, smokers feel less addicted to their smokes and more capable of quitting, he said.
According to Foulds, there were no indications that smokers with mood and anxiety disorders were “over-smoking” the extremely low-nicotine cigarettes or that switching to them had a negative impact on their mental health.
The American Food and Drug Administration has suggested capping the nicotine content in cigarettes at levels that are only mildly addictive. According to Foulds, doing so might diminish addiction as well as exposure to harmful chemicals and the likelihood of quitting.
Moonlight and Moonlight Menthol cigarettes, produced by 22nd Century Group, Inc., were given FDA approval in 2019. According to Foulds, these products are being tested on the market and are not generally accessible.
“It would be desirable to move forward with establishing such a legislation as soon as feasible for the protection of public health,” he said. “Since it was discovered that cigarettes, when taken as intended, are deadly and addicting, it has been more than 50 years. It’s time to take action to lessen how addictive cigarettes are.”
The American Lung Association’s volunteer medical spokesperson, Dr. Panagis Galiatsatos, an assistant professor of medicine at Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore, reiterated that sentiment.
According to Galiatsatos, a researcher who participated in the study, “lowering the amount of nicotine in cigarettes has been a public health measure that we have strived for over the previous two decades.” “Nicotine is the reason why individuals keep returning to cigarettes, knowing that they contain toxins and carcinogens, rather than because they desire to put their own health in danger.”
Foulds and his associates examined 188 smokers who had anxiety or mood disorders but didn’t want to give up smoking for the study. They were given the option of smoking cigarettes with the standard level of nicotine or those whose nicotine content was gradually decreased over the course of 18 weeks.
Researchers discovered no appreciable variations in the two groups’ mental health throughout that time. Additionally, those who were given cigarettes with lower nicotine levels had a higher chance of quitting smoking (18% vs. 4%) than those who received cigarettes with regular nicotine levels.
Dr. Pamela Ling, director of the Center for Tobacco Control Research and Education at the University of California, San Francisco, reviewed the results and said, “It’s important to study people with mental health conditions, as they constitute about 25% of the population but smoke 40% of the cigarettes in the U.S.”
She pointed out that people with mental health issues typically die earlier than the general population from illnesses linked to smoking.
Ling suggested that low-nicotine cigarettes should be the sole ones sold.
This study should ease worries that smoking cigarettes with less nicotine can exacerbate symptoms in patients with mental health issues, according to Ling. “It’s time for the FDA to intervene to limit nicotine levels in cigarettes to the absolute minimum. According to this study, taking such steps could aid smokers in quitting, including those who are dealing with mental health issues.”
Politics, not health considerations, will ultimately determine whether low-nicotine cigarettes will displace current cigarettes, according to Galiatsatos.
We would have triumphed if this conflict had only been about broccoli, he claimed. “It isn’t. For a lot of people, it generates a lot of income. But from the perspective of a doctor, we must seize these chances to put the right clinical recommendations into place so that these patients stop smoking.”
On November 2, the report was posted online in the journal PLOS ONE.
Visit the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention for more information on quitting smoking.
SOURCES: Pamela Ling, MD, MPH, director of the Center for Tobacco Control Research and Education at the University of California, San Francisco; Jonathan Foulds, PhD, professor of public health sciences and psychiatry at Penn State University in Hershey; Panagis Galiatsatos, MD, assistant professor of medicine at Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore and a volunteer medical spokesman for the American Lung Association; PLOS ONE