Category Archives: nicotine

FDA proposes reducing the amount of nicotine in cigarettes

Got mixed feelings on this one and I definitely need to get more information to have a hard and fast opinion.

The FDA, which under the Trump Administration I seriously no longer trust at all, is taking public comment on its proposal to drop the level of nicotine to “minimally or non-addictive levels.”

Seriously, considering who is the president right now, I’m amazed the FDA is going after Big Tobacco at all. Which makes me paranoid that this is some kind of end run that will end up actually helping Big Tobacco. How, I’m not sure, but I cannot trust this administration. It doesn’t help my paranoia that the tobacco industry is weirdly applauding the measure.

From a Agence French Press article:

“Today’s advance notice is a request for information, not a proposed rule, and is the first step in a multi-year process that will require the agency to examine and resolve many complex issues,” said Murray Garnick, executive vice president and general counsel of Altria Group, Inc., which includes tobacco giant Philip Morris.

“As FDA has acknowledged, any proposed nicotine standard would need to be part of a comprehensive package,” he added.

“Altria has already been preparing for any reasonable potential standard, and we plan to participate in every step of this process.”

I’d feel more comfortable if the industry was openly freaking out about this.

Anyway, without getting into conspiracy theories, right off the bat,   I have two thoughts.

If you simply reduce the level of nicotine, won’t that prompt smokers to smoke more in order to get the same level of nicotine they got prior? Remember, these are people already addicted to nicotine. I have no science to back this up, it’s just a thought on my part.

I CAN see a benefit that lowering nicotine drastically will make it much more difficult for young smokers to get addicted to nicotine to begin with.

There is some science to back up this point.

From a the Agence French Press article:

“We’re taking a pivotal step today that could ultimately bring us closer to our vision of a world where combustible cigarettes would no longer create or sustain addiction -– making it harder for future generations to become addicted in the first place and allowing more currently addicted smokers to quit or switch to potentially less harmful products,” said FDA commissioner Scott Gottlieb.

A study released Thursday in the New England Journal of Medicine projected that cutting nicotine to a non-addictive level could mean five million fewer smokers in the first year of implementation.

Within five years, another eight million fewer people would smoke, and by 2060, the smoking rate in the United States could drop to 1.4 percent, down from its present level of 15 percent, said the report.

Anyway, interesting times. I will definitely keep an eye on how this turns out. I expect it will be a while and I expect Trump will be long gone before it comes to any fruition.

Nicotine listed by experts as among the most addictive substances


… but not as one of the most damaging drugs on Earth, a big oversight on their part.

This is a story from the Conversation, based on a survey done with substance abuse experts about the most addictive substances on Earth … and nicotine makes the cut.

It’s important to always keep this in mind about while tobacco is so evil … the sheer physical addictiveness of nicotine. I’ve often said that it’s arguably as addictive as heroin … I can’t imagine there’s really a way to measure such a thing. I just base this on anecdotal information I gather from smokers about how incredibly grueling and physically difficult it is to quit smoking. People tell me it just wracks their bodies trying to quit.


I also believe, and some studies support this, that there is a genetic component to nicotine addiction, which could explain why some people are able to quit smoking while others simply … cannot … do … it. So, it’s not about willpower or that somehow some people are just stranger than others.

Anyway, the five most addictive substances mentioned int his article are:

  1. Heroin
  2. Alcohol
  3. Cocaine
  4. Barbiturates
  5. Nicotine

Now this story doesn’t talk about meth, which is another incredibly addictive drug, but it does mention that meth is closely related to cocaine, so I suppose the author is bundling them together.

One thing I don’t agree with this story: It states that heroin is the second-most damaging drug in the world in terms of damage to  users and society. Alcohol is listed as the most damaging with an estimated 3 million deaths caused worldwide in 2012. Cocaine is listed as the third-most damaging drug..

These experts claim that nicotine is the 12th most addictive drug on Earth — again, how that is measured, I don’t know. And I don’t have a clue what the other 11 substances would be; only four are mentioned in this story.

And they don’t even list it as the most damaging drugs, this is where I disagree … even though the current death toll from tobacco is 6 million people a year worldwide, double the death toll from the so-called No. 1 most damaging drug, alcohol. By 2030, an estimated 8 million people will die every year from tobacco-related diseases.

I won’t dismiss the staggering damage done by alcoholism, not only from alcohol-related diseases, but domestic violence, murders and DUI wrecks caused by drinking.  But, I would argue that nicotine does more damage to society than cocaine, heroin and barbiturates combined.  Here’s where I don’t agree with this story’s logic. In the U.S. at least, tobacco kills more people than alcohol, cocaine, heroin, barbiturates and other illegal drugs combined … like by a pretty sizable margin. Tobacco kills 440,000 people a year in the U.S., while alcohol kills about 110,000 people a year (and this includes DUIs) and Illegal drugs only kill about 20,000 people a year. So, we’re talking three times as many die as a result of tobacco than from alcohol and illegal drugs combined. I’m glad this article talked about nicotine, but I just can’t see how you can dismiss the damage done by nicotine and tobacco and this article did that a bit, in my opinion.

This doesn’t take into account other kinds of damage done to society, such as legal costs, incarceration, drug cartel violence, people losing their jobs and families, etc., from drug use and drinking. But, in terms of death and sheer health costs … nicotine and tobacco are No. 1, in my opinion.

Anyway, it was an interesting article even if i didn’t totally agree with it. Nicotine needs to be very much spoken in the same context as alcohol and illegal drugs as far as the damage done by it.


Study: Nicotine-like chemical in pesticide may be turning bees into junkies


Another interesting study, this one from Newcastle University and scientists in Sweden and published in Nature, suggest that a chemical in pesticides which has chemical similarities to nicotine is killing bees.

These chemicals, called neonicotinoids, have molecular similarities to nicotine, which is generally considered one of the most addictive substances on the planet … if not the most addictive substance on the planet. According to this article from the Guardian:

Scientists suggested the chemicals, which have a similar molecular structure to nicotine, may be affecting the reward centres in bee’s brain in the same way humans are affected by cigarettes.

Professor Geraldine Wright, who led the study, said that the addictive effect was not something they had tested for and was only a hypothesis.

“Like nicotine they are essentially amplifying the rewarding properties of the sucrose solution that they are located in and the bees think its more rewarding so they go back to that food tube to drink more of it,” she said. Previous studies have showed rat’s brain responding to neonicotinoid in this way.

Connolly said: “It will be interesting to see if insects become addicted to neonicotinoids over time as humans become addicted to nicotine. Given that the neonicotinoids are commonly found in our farmed environment at these levels, this may have already occurred.”

It’s no secret that bee populations have been declining and pesticides are the biggest suspect for that. Some of these pesticides have already been banned in Europe and they could be banned in the U.S. Perhaps because the bees become addicted to the neonicotinoid chemicals, they are more attracted to nectar that has been sprayed with it.

According to the Nature article:

Christopher Connolly, who studies human and bee neuroscience at the University of Dundee, UK, and has published work6 showing that neonicotinoids interfere with neuron function in bumblebees, says that he was already convinced that the pesticides are bad for bees. Now, “the questions need to move to a different level”, to elucidate the mechanisms.

Of course, to absolutely no one’s surprise, representatives of pesticide companies say the study is bogus. From the Guardian story:

Nick von Westenholz, chief executive of the Crop Protection Association that represents neonicotinoid producers Bayer and Syngenta, said: “The latest studies in Nature must be seen in the context of an ongoing campaign to discredit neonicotinoid pesticides, regardless of what the real evidence shows.”

He said Rundlöf’s results were questionable as the levels of the pesticide found in pollen on the bees was higher than in previous studies , suggesting that Rundlöf had treated the crops herself rather than using industry-standard seeds.

“Bayer CropScience is pleased the Swedish study demonstrates yet again there is no effect of neonicotinoids on honeybee colonies in realistic field conditions, consistent with previous published field studies,” said a spokesman for the agrochemical giant. But it criticised the methodology of Rundlöf’s experiment and said the study offered no proof of increased bee deaths.

So, nicotine-like chemicals are not only incredibly addictive for humans, but according to these studies, apparently for bees, too.


Tourist dies drinking nicotine tea — you don’t mess around with nicotine

This is a tragic story. A young tourist in Peru was participating in an ayahuasca ceremony. As part of that ceremony, she drank nicotine tea to purge her body beforehand. She then died of nicotine poisoning.

This demonstrates a little-known fact about nicotine: Not only is it incredibly addictive, arguably the most addictive substance on the planet, it’s also incredibly poisonous, especially in larger doses than a person gets from a cigarette. I never even heard of nicotine tea before. Obviously, this story makes it’s clear that it’s something to be handled very carefully.


What’s brought how dangerous nicotine really is to light is e-cigarettes. E-cigarettes require these little vials of liquid nicotine. Thousands of people have been poisoned by nicotine the past few years because of these vials. Some people have been poisoned just by spilling a vial onto their skin.

In 2011, there were 271 cases of nicotine poisoning reported in the U.S. By 2014, that number had jumped to 3,957. More than half of these poisonings involved children under the age of 6. That’s a 14-fold increase in just three years. Thanks, e-cigs.



Study: Smoking may increase risk of suicide


Interesting story from Epoch Times. According to a Washington University study, smoking may actually contribute to the risk of suicide. And that policies that work to reduce smoking rates such as cigarette taxes and smoking bans might also reduce the number of suicides.

I know that sounds nuts, but there seems to be some basis for this conclusion. First, it’s been well-established that people with diagnosed mental illnesses — bipolar disorder and schizophrenia — smoke at a higher rate than the general population. That’s a given. Now, it may be that nicotine or other drugs in cigarettes are making mental health worse (considering just the pure addictive nature of nicotine, I can believe that easily.).

New research at Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis finds that smoking itself may increase suicide risk and that policies to limit smoking reduce suicide rates.

In a study published online July 16 in the journal Nicotine & Tobacco Research, a team led by Richard A. Grucza, PhD, reports that suicide rates declined up to 15 percent, relative to the national average, in states that implemented higher taxes on cigarettes and stricter policies to limit smoking in public places.

“Our analysis showed that each dollar increase in cigarette taxes was associated with a 10 percent decrease in suicide risk,” said Grucza, associate professor of psychiatry. “Indoor smoking bans also were associated with risk reductions.”


Although scientists have known for years that people who smoke have a higher risk for suicide, they had assumed the risk was related to the psychiatric disorders that affect many smokers. These new findings, however, suggest smoking may increase the risk for psychiatric disorders, or make them more severe, which, in turn, can influence suicide risk.

“We really need to look more closely at the effects of smoking and nicotine, not only on physical health but on mental health, too,” Grucza said. “We don’t know exactly how smoking influences suicide risk. It could be that it affects depression or increases addiction to other substances. We don’t know how smoking exerts these effects, but the numbers show it clearly does something.”

Grucza suspects nicotine may be an important influence on suicide risk. Based on the study’s results, he said he is concerned that many new restrictions on public smoking don’t cover newer e-cigarettes, which deliver nicotine but release vapor rather than smoke. This mechanism purportedly allows those addicted to nicotine to get a “fix” without affecting the air others breathe.

“Nicotine is a plausible candidate for explaining the link between smoking and suicide risk,” Grucza said. “Like any other addicting drug, people start using nicotine to feel good, but eventually they need it to feel normal. And as with other drugs, that chronic use can contribute to depression or anxiety, and that could help to explain the link to suicide.”

So, it’s possible that nicotine or other chemicals in cigarettes are making bipolar, depression or schizophrenia worse (Remember, it’s become well-established in the last few years that smoking absolutely, positively does make arthritis and diabetes worse).

Interesting and important study. Again, a lot of hidden damage gets done by cigarettes and smoking — not just lung cancer.


How Big Tobacco has made cigarettes more deadly in the past 50 years

tobacco-2 The Campaign for Tobacco Free Kids put out an interesting report last week about the various additives tobacco companies are putting into cigarettes today to make them more addictive and hence more deadly. According to this graphic from CTFK, there’s a number of things the tobacco industry has done over the past 50 years to make cigarettes more addictive. I’ve read all about how the tobacco industry has been known for manipulating the level of nicotine in cigarettes.  (Something the tobacco industry continues to deny) Anyway, here is an interesting infographic. The various ways the industry increases the intake of nicotine:

  • Increased Nicotine: Tobacco companies precisely control the delivery and amount of nicotine to create and sustain addiction.
  • Bronchodilators: These added chemicals expand the lungs’ airways, making it easier for tobacco smoke to pass into the lungs.
  • Levulinic Acid: Added organic acid salts, like levulinic acid, reduce the harshness of nicotine and make the smoke smoother and less irritating.
  • Menthol: Menthol cools and numbs the throat to reduce irritation and make the smoke feel smoother.
  • Sugars and Acetaldehyde: Added sugars make tobacco smoke easier to inhale and, when burned in cigarettes, form acetaldehyde, a cancer-causing chemical that enhances nicotine’s addictive effects.
  • Ammonia: Added ammonia compounds produce higher levels of “freebase” nicotine and increase the speed with which nicotine hits the brain.

“Most people would think that 50 years after we learned that cigarette smoking causes lung cancer, cigarettes would be safer. What’s shocking about the report we issued today is that we’ve found that a smoker today has more than twice the risk of lung cancer than a smoker fifty years ago, as a direct result of design changes made by the industry,” Matt Myers, the president of the Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids, said in an interview with ThinkProgress.

(One note about the Matt Myers quote. I would disagree with one aspect of his comment. A two- to three-pack-a-day smoker was not uncommon 50 years ago, and that’s almost unheard of today with the breadth of smoking bans, so smokers are not smoking nearly as much as they did 50 years ago. But, his point is taken.) Pretty chilling stuff. The industry has done everything in its power to try and make cigarettes more physically addictive to keep their customers until death do them part.

NPR story: Kids are harvesting the tobacco for cigarettes and getting sick doing it

NPR photo — Eddie Ramirez, 15

Outstanding story from NPR today; really powerful stuff.

Listen to the NPR report here.

Kids, some as young as 12 years old, are helping to harvest tobacco crops through much of the South. NPR interviewed Eddie Ramirez, a Honduran kid who picks tobacco with his migrant family in the South:

“In the mornings, tobacco is wet because of the dew and, like, the rows are narrow and the tobacco is really big. You just feel like you’re suffocating or can’t breathe really well,” he says. “You just want to stop and not do it no more.”

Well, all that tobacco is absolutely leaking nicotine, and as I’ve talked about especially a lot lately, nicotine is actually poisonous, especially to kids. So, these young kids are absorbing nicotine through the hands and skin by working in the tobacco fields all day (Remember a story I posted about a woman ending up in the emergency room because she fell asleep on a bottle of liquid nicotine for her e-cigarette and got severe nicotine poisoning because it was absorbed into her system through skin contact?)


In the NPR article:

“We found that the overwhelming majority of kids we interviewed got sick while they were working in tobacco fields with nausea, headaches, dizziness, lightheadedness,” says Human Rights Watch researcher Margaret Wurth. “And many of the symptoms they reported are consistent with acute nicotine poisoning, which happens when workers absorb nicotine through their skin.”


A group called Human Rights Watch interviewed more than 100 children who work in tobacco fields, but has no idea how many kids are really doing this … and possibly getting sick from it. The group is calling for the end of using child labour in tobacco fields, and is calling on Big Tobacco to take a more active role in stopping it.

Of the 133 kids interviewed by HRW, more than 66 percent reported feeling sick with symptoms consistent with nicotine poisoning; 73 percent report getting sick in the fields with other symptoms.

Just awful story, and it’s being enabled by the Labor Department, which refused under political pressure (gosh, from where, I wonder? RJR and Philip Morris, no doubt)  to implement tougher work standards for employers hiring crews to work in tobacco fields.

Anyway, a great story that sheds a light on something that needed to be exposed, and needs to stop.