The US Government intends to lower the nicotine content in commercial tobacco. The Biden administration claims it’s for public health and safety, but the unintended consequences of such a decision are apparent. Canada has a similar cap on how much THC one can put in an edible cannabis product. This policy reveals some insight into what the unintended consequences of limits are.
Nicotine: Health Benefits
The US government’s intention to lower nicotine content in cigarettes appears to be an ideological position. Nicotine is the least bad part of tobacco. In its pure form, nicotine is a nootropic and is arguably beneficial for brain function. Studies confirm that nicotine lowers your risk of Alzheimer’s and reduces the risk of dementia. This is because nicotine seems to inhibit the formation of amyloid plaque in brain cells.
And as any cigarette smoker can attest to – nicotine improves your focus.
Studies also show that pure, isolated nicotine has a neutral effect on our health. The health consequences of smoking – inflammation, cancer, and cardiovascular disease – come from smoking the tobacco plant. As well as the pesticides used in the growing process, the chemicals added during the cigarette-making process, and the microplastics in the filters.
Not only is nicotine harmless, but there are cognitive benefits to consuming it.
Unintended Consequences of Lower Nicotine Content
Nicotine is habit-forming, but so is the ritual of smoking. What will happen when the US government enforces lower nicotine content in commercial tobacco? Will people smoke less? Or will they smoke more to get the same amount of nicotine they’re used to?
People will smoke more if it takes more tobacco to get the same amount of nicotine. A healthier alternative would be forcing tobacco companies to jack up their nicotine content. So a person could get their nicotine fix before even finishing the entire cigarette.
The US Food and Drug Administration claims lower nicotine content will render cigarettes “minimally addictive or nonaddictive,” but this is nonsensical. The ritual of smoking is part of the habit. There is a certain mediative quality to opening the pack, lighting the stick, and inhaling the first drag. Lower nicotine content won’t break the ritual or help people quit. It’ll only make them inhale more carcinogens while getting less of the only healthy part of smoking – the nicotine.
Lower Nicotine Content Just Like Canada’s THC Cap
Lower nicotine content results in people smoking more as Canada’s THC cap on edible cannabis results in its own unintended consequences.
Canada’s THC cap on edibles is 10mg per serving. Canadians who need or desire more potent edibles either have to make their own or stick to the legacy market. Otherwise, one spends upwards of $50 daily for only 50mg. Likewise, one’s blood sugar will spike to unnatural levels with the amount of refined sugar one would need to consume to get north of 50mg of THC.
The real victims of Canada’s THC cap are the medical patients. This was apparent with cannabis activist Neil Magnuson’s arrest and raiding of the Cannabis Substitution Project. The project aims to get hard drug users off things like opioids and meth and onto cannabis.
Selling edibles beyond the THC cap is illegal, so police raided the project last month. However, given that Canada’s courts demand reasonable access to medical cannabis, there is a case to be made that the THC caps are unconstitutional.
Lower Nicotine Content For Better Health?
The FDA predicts lower nicotine content will save over 8 million lives by the end of the century. They funded a study to provide data supporting these conclusions. But if the last two ‘n a half years have been any indication, public health models aren’t worth the trouble. When the FDA says that, had the nicotine limit been the law in 2020, an additional 5 million adults would have quit smoking.
Dr. John Ioannidis, a professor at Stanford University, lambasts this kind of research. In his paper, “Why Most Published Research Findings are False,” he explains that “research findings may often be simply accurate measures of the prevailing bias.”
This is undoubtedly the case here. The definition of institutional bias is the FDA funding its own study to arrive at conclusions supporting its lower nicotine content policy.