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Vaping study: FDA should regulate chemicals not nicotine in cigarettes

In late July 2017, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) announced that it wants to reduce the levels of nicotine in combustible cigarettes to make them less addictive.  However, medical experts have known for decades that nicotine by itself is not highly addictive.  If that were true, then the FDA would need to regulate all products containing nicotine, including tomatoes, potatoes, and eggplant. 

Addiction specialists have also known since the 1960s that the primary reason for the high addiction rates of tobacco cigarettes is the thousands of needless chemicals that Big Tobacco intentionally includes as ingredients.  Now, a new vaping study by none other than Harvard University suggests that the FDA might be targeting the wrong substance for further federal regulation.  Rather than pursuing nicotine reduction, perhaps the FDA should begin abolishing many of the addictive chemicals in tobacco cigarettes instead.

Overview of the Harvard vaping study

In the Harvard vaping study, the scientists acknowledge that a certain public perception exists surrounding tobacco and nicotine.  Somehow, the public-at-large has come to believe that these two substances are one-in-the same.  But tobacco is not nicotine, and nicotine is not tobacco.  So, they developed a vaping study focusing on the measurements of certain pyrazines commonly associated with cigarette smoke.


Pyrazines is a scientific term for those thousands of needless chemicals intentionally placed within combustible tobacco products to increase their addiction capabilities.  Since the e-liquids in vaping devices do not contain these pyrazines (for the most part), the Harvard scientists wanted to determine if e-cigs are just as addictive as conventional cigarettes.

The report is entitled A study of pyrazines in cigarettes and how additives might be used to enhance tobacco addiction, and it is published on the BMJ Tobacco Control website.  The research team led by Dr. Hillel R. Alpert began by collecting historical data on combustible cigarettes dating as far back as the 1990s.  By comparing the older research surrounding the growing levels and intensities of included pyrazines in tobacco cigarettes through the decades to that of today’s e-liquids used in vaping, the Harvard team was able to identify that the pyrazines are most likely causing the debilitating addiction rather than the nicotine content.  

“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.”

The study also clarifies that nicotine is only nominally addictive, but when it is combined with these additional pyrazines, the resulting addiction is amplified to astronomical levels.  As Dr. Drew Pinsky has already stated on several occasions, it’s not the nicotine in cigarettes that kills smokers.  It’s the thousands of deadly chemicals.   Many pyrazines not only increase addition, they are also highly toxic and a contributing cause of millions of smoking-related deaths every year, which the Harvard study seems to confirm. 


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