FDA to Lower Nicotine in Cigarettes

FDA to Lower Nicotine in Cigarettes

FDA to Lower Nicotine in Cigarettes

FDA commissioner Scott Gottlieb has noted how he and his organization are "at a crossroads when it comes to addressing nicotine addiction and smoking in this country".

Tobacco executives from Altria and R.J. Reynolds expressed interest in the FDA proposal and vowed to work closely with the agency on what is expected to be a process lasting several years.

In discussing his comprehensive tobacco strategy on Thursday, Gottlieb said he sees "a historic opportunity" to use nicotine reduction as a way to move smokers from conventional cigarettes to products that provide nicotine without the serious health hazards posed by burning tobacco.

"Tobacco use also costs almost $300 billion a year in direct health care and lost productivity". That FDA-funded analysis found that slashing nicotine levels could push the smoking rate down to 1.4 percent from the current 15 percent of adults.

It's the boldest move yet against cigarette makers by the FDA, which only got permission to regulate tobacco products in 2009.

Tobacco companies have carefully engineered their products to be as addictive as possible, said Mitch Zeller, director of the FDA's Center for Tobacco Products.

But Myers said FDA should reduce nicotine levels in all combustible tobacco products, not just cigarettes, to prevent people from switching to other harmful products.

Matthew Myers, president of Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids, warned of the dangers of taking it too slow.

"We're interested in public input on critical questions such as: What potential maximum nicotine level would be appropriate for the protection of public health?" Would limits on nicotine foster the growth of a black market in high-nicotine cigarettes?

"Should a product standard be implemented all at once or gradually?"

The evaluation was based on reducing nicotine levels to 0.4 milligrams per gram of tobacco filler, FDA officials told reporters during a teleconference. "What unintended consequences - such as the potential for illicit trade or for addicted smokers to compensate for lower nicotine by smoking more - might occur as a result?"

The FDA will make two additional announcements about proposed tobacco rules, including ones related to flavors in cigarettes and another on so-called premium cigars. Kaiser Health News, an editorially independent news service, is a program of the Kaiser Family Foundation, a nonpartisan health care policy research organization unaffiliated with Kaiser Permanente.

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