Most Americans support reducing nicotine levels in cigarettes to stop children from taking up smoking

A vast majority of U.S. adults support reducing nicotine in cigarettes to below nonaddictive levels if it means fewer children and adults will become addicted to cigarettes, according to a new study led by Harvard School of Public Health (HSPH) researchers. The study was published online February 16, 2012 in the American Journal of Public Health.

Lead author Gregory N. Connolly, director of the HSPH’s Center for Global Tobacco Control, and Hillel Alpert, research scientist and senior author, and colleagues conducted a nationally representative public opinion survey of 511 nonsmokers and 510 smokers adults aged 18 and older, excluding Hawaii and Alaska, from May 18, 2011 through June 5, 2011.

Cigarettes contribute to the premature deaths of more than 400,000 Americans each year and the recruitment of more than 3,800 new youth smokers daily, the authors report.

Among the findings:

  • More than 3 in 4 persons (77%), including 81% of nonsmokers and 74% of smokers, supported the reduction of nicotine in cigarettes to levels below the threshold of addiction if it could cause fewer children to become addicted to cigarettes.
  • Nearly 2 in 3 (65%) persons supported reducing nicotine in cigarettes to nonaddictive levels, including 73% of nonsmokers and 58% of smokers.
  • Approximately 2 in 5 persons (43%) supported the banning of cigarettes, including 55% of nonsmokers and 33% of smokers.

“I am not surprised so many support a sharp reduction in nicotine in cigarettes as it is one of the most addictive substances in existence,” said Cheryl G. Healton, DrPH, president and CEO of Legacy®. The study was funded by the American Legacy Foundation and the National Cancer Institute.

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