Cigarettes still kill nearly half a million people in the US each year — 15 times the death toll from the opioid crisis. That’s also more than alcohol, car accidents, AIDS, illegal drugs, murders, and suicides combined.
Thanks to tobacco taxes and cigarette bans, the smoking rate in America has declined dramatically — from around 32 percent in the 1980s to 15 percent today. But over the past couple of years, the smoking prevalence here hasn’t budged while rates have continued to drop in other rich countries like the UK and Canada. Australia has even managed to reduce its smoking rate to an all-time low of 13 percent.
The picture in the US may be about to change.
In July, the US Food and Drug Administration announced a new initiative that could — if it pans out — drive down the US smoking rate much, much further. Scott Gottlieb, the commissioner of the FDA, said the agency plans to set new, much lower limits on the amount of nicotine in tobacco, essentially forcing companies to reengineer cigarettes so they’ll be less addictive.
Here’s what we need to do to save more lives.