• April 21, 2024

Gunther: Truth Initiative Wants End of Nicotine

 Gunther: Truth Initiative Wants End of Nicotine

Image: luciano

Image: luciano

The Truth Initiative’s endgame plan amounts to nicotine prohibition, according to Mark Gunther.

Writing in Filter, Gunther cites a recently released Truth Initiative report in which the organization outlines its “strategy to move toward the end of commercial tobacco and nicotine use.”

“A tobacco-free future is possible,” said Robin Koval, the president and CEO of the Truth Initiative, during an online panel discussion about the plan.

Critics fear that the organization’s focus on nicotine prevention could keep combustible cigarettes around longer, however.

“The endgame should be reducing premature deaths from tobacco, not the eradication of nicotine, which is not going to happen and is misguided policy,” said K. Michael Cummings, a veteran tobacco control expert and professor at the Medical University of South Carolina.

“Changing the objective from reducing smoking-related deaths and disease to destroying the tobacco industry and eliminating nicotine use is completely misguided,” said Alex Wodak, a physician and the director of the Australian Tobacco Harm Reduction Association. 

In the near term, according to Gunther, the Truth Initiative wants a national ban on menthol cigarettes and cigars; a ban on flavored vaping products; sales of nicotine products restricted to adult-only stores; a reduction in the number of places selling tobacco; reduced nicotine levels in cigarettes; and improved access to smoking cessation drugs. Medium-term and long-term, the group wants to develop new quitting options; cap nicotine levels in all products; and prohibit the sale of tobacco and nicotine products completely.

In the panel discussion, Koval said that it is misleading to describe the group’s endgame strategies as prohibitionist and that the targets are manufacturers and retailers. Critics disagree with this as well, arguing that the Truth Initiative is one of the first to call on the U.S. Food and Drug Administration and the Department of Justice to enforce rules.

“No group has pushed harder or yelled louder for FDA and DOJ [Department of Justice] to outlaw vaping and kick in the doors of anyone perceived as disobedient,” said Alli Boughner, vice president of American Vapor Manufacturers. Boughner said the endgame plan is “totally dislocated from the real world or even basic human decency.”

Harm reduction advocates take issue especially with the Truth Initiative’s lack of distinction between harms resulting from tobacco versus harms resulting from nicotine.

“Nicotine should join the list of socially acceptable psychoactive substances like caffeine, like the moderate consumption of alcohol and, increasingly, like cannabinoids,” said Clive Bates, a harm reduction advocate. “We don’t lose our minds when young people have a drink or take coffee.”