The US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) may be set to reclassify nicotine as a drug because it is addictive. If it does, tobacco advertising could be subject to more stringent controls, and cigarettes could, in theory, be banned altogether in the U

The move follows the FDA’s allegations that tobacco manufacturers manipulate the nicotine content in cigarettes during processing to increase their addictive propeties. Cigarette manufacturers have denied the allegation.

FDA commissioner David Kessler said the practice would make tobacco a drug which could ultimately mean cigarettes being removed from the market.

Congress is considering the next step after studying the FDA papers.

The move followed just days after the publication of the US surgeon general’s report on smoking and health which criticized the cigarette manufacturers for aiming their marketing at adolescents (BMJ, 5 March 1994).

l Not everyone finds nicotine to be bad. A study by the University of Wales has concluded that nicotine patches can help improve the symptoms of ulcerative colitis sufferers. The trial, among 72 patients, was triggered by the observation that most colitis sufferers are nonsmokers, while smokers develop the condition only several years after they have given up.

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