USA seeks to lower nicotine in cigarettes to non-addictive levels

USA seeks to lower nicotine in cigarettes to non-addictive levels

Ronald Pratt
August 7, 2017

The FDA's has proposed a new comprehensive plan for tobacco and nicotine regulation that will serve as a multi-year roadmap to better protect kids and significantly reduce tobacco-related disease and death.

The FDA says that its goal is to ensure that the agency has the scientific and regulatory foundation to implement the Family Smoking Prevention and Tobacco Control Act, and make certain that it is striking an appropriate balance between regulation and encouraging innovative tobacco products that may be less risky than cigarettes.

If cigarettes are no longer addictive, "we can take a more balanced approach to some of the newer innovations that might have the potential to help current combustible cigarette smokers transition off combustible cigarettes and on to products that might be less harmful", Gottlieb said.

However, the cigarette industry was quick to criticize the decision. It will also explore the role of e-cigarettes and other products in lowering harm from smoking.

By tying the two issues - lowering nicotine in traditional cigarettes and regulating e-cigarettes - Gottlieb hoped to unite all sides who are opposed to conventional cigarettes while also allaying their fears on e-cigs.

The FDA thinks exploring safe ways to deliver nicotine in products like e-cigarettes and nicotine gum is essential for their users. For newly-regulated combustible products, like cigars, hookah tobacco, and pipe tobacco, under expected revised timelines, the applications to be submitted by 8th August 2021; and for non-combustible products like electronic nicotine delivery systems (ENDS) and e-cigarettes, the applications should be submitted by 8th August 2022.

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In a statement, the agency pointed to the 480,000 annual deaths in the United States due to tobacco, deeming it the leading cause in preventable illness and death. It's also looking at "kid-appealing flavors" in e-cigarettes and cigars.

The overall goal of this initiative is to steer smokers away from addictive cigarettes and quit all together, or go toward less harmful alternatives, such as vaping.

"Nicotine itself is not responsible for the cancer, the lung disease and heart disease that kill hundreds of thousands of Americans each year", FDA Commissioner Scott Gottlieb said.

Public health advocates continue to debate whether e-cigarettes represent a health risk or potential benefit.

Altria's wholly owned subsidiaries include Philip Morris USA Inc., U.S. Smokeless Tobacco Co. The whole plan is a result of regulatory powers given to the agency in 2009.

The FDA's announcement sets in motion a lengthy rule-making process that will involve public comment and input from multiple stakeholders before any measures take effect.