A team of scientists from the Technical University of Dortmund, Germany have figured out a way to grow tobacco plants that contain 99.7 percent less nicotine. They used the popular gene-editing technique CRISPR to disable six enzymes in the plant that aid in the production of the addictive stimulant.
According to the researchers, the new version has just 0.04 milligrams of nicotine per gram — almost undetectable. Their research was published by the Plant Biotechnology Journal earlier this month.
Quitting the Habit
While low-nicotine cigarettes have previously been shown to be just as harmful thanks to other substances and carcinogens, as the New Scientist points out, they might still help people quit the habit. Studies have shown that smokers never ended up smoking more when switching to low-nicotine cigarettes to compensate.
It’s an interesting approach to helping smokers quit in a field that’s becoming increasingly dominated by e-cigarettes. But whether either method is actually effective or healthier is debatable.
But the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) is convinced that mandating the reduction of nicotine levels in cigarettes could be the answer. The government body is exploring policies that would introduce new product standards with lower nicotine.
READ MORE: Non-addictive CRISPR-edited tobacco could help eliminate smoking [New Scientist]
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