The recent legislation providing the Food and Drug Administration oversight to regulate tobacco products is long overdue. However, the ability to regulate nicotine and/or chemical content of a cigarette is not as straightforward as the bill and the media suggest.
For nearly 10 years I led a laboratory investigating tobacco research and human risk assessment of tobacco products in Research Triangle Park, and I know firsthand the difficulties involved in the scientific analysis of cigarette smoke.
To illustrate the complex nature of trying to measure nicotine, tar or other chemicals in cigarette smoke, consider that there is currently no agreed-upon method for collecting smoke from cigarettes. If you can't collect the smoke, you can't measure anything in it.
It becomes only more complicated from there. Congress should consider that the new Center for Tobacco Products will need to be located in an area with experts in tobacco, cigarette manufacturing, state-of-the-art laboratories and access to highly skilled individuals with expertise in chemical and biological analyses. What better place than RTP? Let North Carolina lead the way in tobacco regulation.