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Home » The Past, Present And Future of Nicotine Addiction: Mitch Zeller (Transcript)

The Past, Present And Future of Nicotine Addiction: Mitch Zeller (Transcript)

Here is the full transcript of Mitch Zeller’s talk titled “The Past, Present And Future of Nicotine Addiction” at TEDxMidAtlantic conference.

Health policy expert Mitch Zeller’s talk, “The Past, Present, and Future of Nicotine Addiction,” offers a compelling narrative on the dangers of cigarette consumption and the regulatory efforts to combat nicotine addiction. Zeller, speaking from his experience at the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), highlights cigarettes as unique among consumer products for their guaranteed harm to long-term users.

He acknowledges the progress made in reducing smoking rates but emphasizes the ongoing threat tobacco poses to public health, causing more deaths annually than several major causes combined. Zeller discusses historical tobacco industry documents that reveal a deep understanding of nicotine’s addictive nature, despite public denials. He critiques past industry strategies to address health concerns, such as misleading ‘light’ cigarette designs, and outlines the FDA’s strategy to reduce nicotine levels in cigarettes to non-addictive levels.

His vision includes a future where cigarettes can no longer create or sustain addiction, potentially saving millions of lives. Zeller’s talk is a call to action for continued vigilance and innovation in public health policy to tackle the enduring challenge of nicotine addiction.

Listen to the audio version here:


I’m going to tell you a story about how the deadliest consumer product imaginable came to be. It’s the cigarette. The cigarette is the only consumer product that, when used as intended, will kill half of all long-term users prematurely, later in life. But this is also a story about the work that we’re doing at the Food and Drug Administration, and specifically, the work that we’re doing to create the cigarette of the future, that is no longer capable of creating or sustaining addiction.

A lot of people think that the tobacco problem or the smoking problem has been solved in the United States because of the great progress that’s been made over the last 40, 50 years, when it comes to both consumption and prevalence. And it’s true; smoking rates are at historic lows. It’s true for both adults and for kids. And it’s true that those who continue to smoke are smoking far fewer cigarettes per day than at any time in history.

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