Cigarette smoke hand fingersAlthough we often write about negative developments regarding drug and alcohol abuse, today, we’re excited to report about something. This development? The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) is working to lower the nicotine content of cigarettes.

The FDA is trying to persuade U.S. cigarette manufacturers to reduce the amount of nicotine in their products to nonaddictive levels. The agency is also encouraging tobacco companies to create innovative products that are safer for consumers.

If these efforts succeed, they have the potential to help many people. That’s because nicotine is a drug. It can be just as addicting as drugs such as cocaine, heroin, or prescription drugs, since all of these drugs affect the mind as well as the body. Using nicotine could cause people to want to use even more nicotine, a sign of dependence and addition.

Nicotine is a highly addictive substance that can be dangerous for individuals prone to addictions. In one study, researchers found that more than 90 percent of who admitted they had cocaine addictions also claimed that they had smoked cigarettes.

The evidence of both addictions had led to some researchers to believe that nicotine is a gateway drug. That means that smoking cigarettes and consuming nicotine in other forms could eventually lead to other addictions, such as a cocaine addiction.

Even if cigarette smoking and nicotine consumption don’t lead to cocaine addiction and other substance abuse problems, they can be dangerous in various ways. That’s because nicotine consumption and smoking can contribute to all sorts of cancers (including cancer of the mouth and lungs), lung conditions such as chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), and heart problems. Secondhand smoke hurts people who don’t even smoke, and smoking-related illnesses can place strain on families, workplaces, and insurance providers, among others.

More than 480,000 Americans die each year due to nicotine use and smoking. Lowering nicotine levels in cigarettes won’t end such numbers, but maybe it could reduce them.