The National Institutes of Health (NIH) has purchased nine million cigarettes made of tobacco that are genetically altered to reduce the nicotine content by 97 percent, The New York Times reports. The NIH is looking for ways to regulate cigarettes so they are not addictive.
In one study with the experimental cigarettes, 500 smokers will be followed for six months to find out if they are more likely to quit if they switch from their current brand to the new cigarettes slowly or quickly.
The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) cannot ban nicotine but it can require that nicotine be reduced to very low levels, if it is proven to benefit public health, the article notes.
The company that makes the experimental cigarettes, the 22nd Century Group, is applying for FDA approval of a cigarette called “X-22” as a smoking cessation device that would be available only by prescription. The company is also testing a cigarette called “Brand B,” which has tobacco with higher levels of nicotine. The company says it can be safer because smokers would take fewer puffs to get the same amount of nicotine.
Earlier this month, the FDA and NIH announced they will study the effect of new tobacco regulations on the health and behavior of smokers and potential smokers.
The study will include 40,000 people ages 12 and up. It will include both users of tobacco products and those at risk for tobacco use. The researchers will investigate what makes people susceptible to tobacco use, their use of tobacco and resulting health problems, and tobacco cessation and relapse. The study will also look into whether and how changes in tobacco regulations have influenced people’s perceptions of the risk of using tobacco products.