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On Friday the 28th of July, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA), announced a new comprehensive plan for tobacco and nicotine regulation, which included lowering the amount of nicotine in cigarettes in order to minimize addiction.

Similarly, article 20 of the European Tobacco Products Directive (EU-TPD), limited the nicotine level in e-cigarettes to 20 mg/mL, and this regulation is thought to be possibly having negative consequences on seasoned vapers.

VLNCs : less nicotine but same amount of carcinogens as regular cigs

In order to obtain the level of nicotine they were accustomed to, vapers forced to switch to lower concentrations of nicotine tend to puff more frequently and intensely, and hence increase the inhalation of harmful compounds. Sadly, the same is expected to happen when seasoned smokers are forced to switch to low-nicotine cigarettes.

“Before those in both the tobacco control and tobacco harm reduction communities advocate for such a drastic shift in the tobacco landscape, it is imperative that we first consider the ethics of VLNCs.”Dr. Carrie Wade, Harm Reduction Policy Manager, R Street Institute

VLNCs (very low nicotine cigarettes), will contain nicotine at levels that do not produce physiological effects, therefore will be delivering the same amount of harmful chemicals without the benefits perceived by the smoker.

Dr. Nancy Kass from Johns Hopkins University is posing some important questions and believes that serious considerations need to be made before VLNCs are accepted as the ideal solution to minimize smoking.

Research required on the effect of VLNC’s on smokers unwilling to quit

VLNCs may be effective for smoking cessation, and for preventing addiction formation in adolescents experimenting with cigs, however, it may have adverse effects on smokers with no intention of quitting.
In an article on The Hill, Dr. Carrie Wade, a harm reduction policy manager for the R Street Institute, said that a more detailed analysis suggests that smokers given VLNCs do in fact smoke less and report fewer cravings, therefore low nicotine cigarettes may help in the smoking cessation process amongst those wishing to quit.

However, she added, there isn’t enough data available on their effect on those who have no intention of quitting. Therefore, the products may be effective for smoking cessation, and may prevent adolescents experimenting with cigarettes from becoming addicted to smoking. However, they may have adverse effects on seasoned smokers who have no intention of quitting. “Reducing the nicotine content fundamentally changes cigarettes to literal ‘cancer sticks’,” said Wade.

“Reducing the nicotine content fundamentally changes cigarettes to literal ‘cancer sticks’.”Dr. Carrie Wade, Harm Reduction Policy Manager, R Street Institute

“Before those in both the tobacco control and tobacco harm reduction communities advocate for such a drastic shift in the tobacco landscape, it is imperative that we first consider the ethics of VLNCs.” she concluded.

  • Mitch Clarke

    Oh wow, great comparison between the TPD nicotine limits and VLNCs, that’s such a good point! I’m not even sure that regulators over here in the US have considered that point. While it’d be wise to study European vapers for that type of behavior, I don’t think US-based research groups use many international statistics to fuel their studies—at least I haven’t seen one yet on PubMed, even past the dreaded paywalls.

    I know that awhile back Dr. Farsalinos put out an article pretty much reiterating the same point but focusing on the benefits of high nicotine juice vs low nicotine, stating that high nicotine provides the satisfaction without the added potential risk of taking in loads of vapor just to get there.

    Of course, this is more of a “better safe than sorry” approach, but still a smart one.