Every now and then, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) threatens to implement new regulatory requirements which would restrict the amount of nicotine in both combustible tobacco and vape products.  Intentionally or unwittingly, agency officials continue to spread disinformation about vaping by consistently conflating nicotine consumption with smoking and cancer.  A study released by Harvard University suggests public health officials are on the wrong track.

Big Tobacco cigarettes are laced with over 7,000 different chemicals and additives.  Nearly 700 of them are known carcinogens, and over 1,000 of them are highly addictive.  The e-liquids used in vaping, on the other hand, are 100 percent chemical-free. The only ingredients in vape juices are propylene glycol (a natural anti-bacterial and artificial sweetener), vegetable glycerin (often used in ice creams and baked goods), flavorings, and in most cases, a liquid nicotine solution.

Related Article: Rutgers survey: 77% of doctors mistakenly believe nicotine (not smoking) causes cancer

The public data on smoking versus nicotine has become so muddled in recent years that a survey released last month by Rutgers University indicates that 77 percent of physicians now wrongly believe that nicotine causes cancer.   

It doesn’t.  Smoking causes cancer – thanks to its thousands of toxic chemicals and its tar-filled smoke.  It is this tar that clogs the lungs, airways, and cardiovascular system – which leads to heart disease respiratory disorders, and yes, cancer.

Harvard team: Nicotine consumption is not smoking, and smoking is not vaping

The Harvard team points out something else that the FDA and the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention regularly get wrong.  Nicotine in itself is not addictive.  If it were, then grocery stores would be unable to keep up with customer demand for eggplant, tomatoes, and potatoes. 

No, the reason why so many people are addicted to smoking is because of those specifically-chosen chemical additives that produce “chemosensory effects that promote addiction.”  The Harvard study entitled A study of pyrazines in cigarettes and how additives might be used to enhance tobacco addiction is available in BMJ Tobacco Control notes the following. 

“Cigarette additives and ingredients with chemosensory effects that promote addiction by acting synergistically with nicotine, increasing product appeal, easing smoking initiation, discouraging cessation or promoting relapse should be regulated by the US Food and Drug Administration. Current models of tobacco abuse liability could be revised to include more explicit roles with regard to non-nicotine constituents that enhance abuse potential.”

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The co-authors also note some rather extraordinary data regarding the history of tobacco cigarette production over the decades.  For example, most people are unaware that the Big Tobacco manufacturers like Phillip Morris and British American Tobacco have been steadily increasing the numbers and levels of chemical additives in cigarettes sine the 1950s. 

As smoking began to slowly become unpopular over the years, cigarette makers would simply add more chemicals.  In the 1990s when then-President Bill Clinton began pushing some of the strictest regulations on the tobacco industry to date, Big Tobacco started confusing people even more by created light, ultra-light, and slim brand names. 

These brands may have had less nicotine than their original counterparts, but they were still stuffed with thousands of noxious chemicals.  That is why they never really worked in curbing the urge to smoke.  The co-authors of the Harvard study put it this way:

“Tobacco manufacturers developed the use of a range of compounds, including pyrazines, in order to enhance ‘light’ cigarette products’ acceptance and sales. Pyrazines with chemosensory and pharmacological effects were incorporated in the first ‘full-flavour, low-tar’ product achieving high market success. Such additives may enhance dependence by helping to optimise nicotine delivery and dosing and through ceing and learned behaviour.”

Today in 2020, nothing has really changed.  Cigarette makers are still using chemical additives in their combustible tobacco products which are specifically chosen to keep their customers hooked.  And congress still does not seem to care.  The Harvard scientists suggest that if the FDA truly wants to promote improved public health through smoking prevention, it only needs to turn its attention towards the regulation of the highly addictive pyrazines rather than limiting or regulating the associated nicotine levels.  Pyrazine-free vaping is much less of a concern.

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