The latest Surgeon General’s report found that cigarettes today are more likely to cause disease than cigarettes made in 1964, when the first Surgeon General’s report was issued. Many leading US health organizations want the FDA to step in.
The report, titled “Designed for Addiction,” was released on the fifth anniversary of the law President Barack Obama signed in 2009 that gave the Food and Drug Administration the power to regulate tobacco products.
Though the US has cut the adult smoking rate by more than half in the past 50 years (42.4 percent in 1965 to 18.1 percent in 2012), the latest Surgeon General’s report found that “today’s cigarette smokers – both men and women – have a much higher risk for lung cancer and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) than smokers in 1964, despite smoking fewer cigarettes.”
According to the same report, there have been changes in both the design and composition of cigarettes since 1950 that are linked to increased risk of developing lung cancer.
Here are some of those changes:
1. Increased nicotine
2. Added flavors like liquorice and chocolate, which “mask the harshness of smoke” (and appeal to young people)
3. Added sugars that make tobacco smoke “easier to inhale”
4. Ventilated filters, which cause smokers to inhale more vigorously, drawing carcinogens deeper into the lungs
5. Menthol, which cools and numbs the throat, reducing irritation
6. Ammonia compounds that make nicotine “hit the brain” more quickly
7. Bronchodilators, which are added chemicals that expand the lungs’ airways and allow smoke to pass into the lungs more easily
Some of the leading health groups (including the American Lung Association, the American Heart Association, the American Academy of Pediatrics, and others) stated in a press release last week that though they “commend” the FDA for steps taken to reduce tobacco use, they still want the Obama Administration and the FDA to take “bolder action” against tobacco companies.
Specifically, the health organizations want the FDA and the Administration to do three things:
1. “Extend the FDA’s jurisdiction to all tobacco products, with no exceptions:” By April 25, 2015, they want electronic cigarettes and cigars regulated by the FDA.
2. “Issue the first-ever product standard governing the design and content of tobacco products:” They want the FDA to issue final product standards to reduce the toxicity and addictiveness of cigarettes, especially the use of menthol, which has been linked to greater addiction among youth and young adults.
3. “Require large, graphic cigarette warning labels that comply with the 2009 law and can withstand legal challenges:” They want the FDA to issue a final rule that requires graphic warnings covering “the top 50 percent of the front and back of cigarette packs,” because evidence shows that graphic warnings are most effective at discouraging people from smoking.Justine Hofherr can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow her @Jhofherr29