Lower Nicotine Cigarettes may not Lower Harm


In 2005, nearly 21% of American adults smoked cigarettes, and 81% of them smoked every day. For smokers unable or unwilling to quit, tobacco products that reduce the adverse health effects of smoking may be an attractive option. Potentially reduced exposure products (PREPs) were developed by the tobacco industry in response to smokers’ health concerns. PREPs purportedly lower the tar and/or nicotine levels of cigarettes, although the actual harm reduced remains questionable. One of the most recent additions to this product class are cigarettes that use genetically modified tobacco to reduce nicotine levels. This Issue Brief summarizes studies that investigate [1] how this product is used and [2] the messages smokers take away from product marketing. These complementary studies send a cautionary signal about the ability of these new cigarettes to reduce the harmful effects of smoking.

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