FDA Mulls over Lowering Nicotine Levels in Cigarettes

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But Gottlieb said the agency would study regulating nicotine levels with a view toward the "FDA's potential to render cigarettes minimally addictive or non-addictive". Following up on that, the FDA has announced a regulatory plan that could shift the trajectory on tobacco-related disease and death.

"Because almost 90 percent of adult smokers started smoking before the age of 18 and nearly 2,500 youth smoke their first cigarette every day in the USA, lowering nicotine levels could decrease the likelihood that future generations become addicted to cigarettes and allow more now addicted smokers to quit", the United States agency said.

Nicotine is the chemical substance that puts consumers at a risk of cigarette addiction. Currently, 5.6 million young people who use tobacco will die prematurely later on in life as a result of their habit.

Concerns have been raised that the FDA's initiative could lead some users to smoke more cigarettes to make up for the lower levels of nicotine, or black markets for higher nicotine cigarettes may emerge. "Envisioning a world where cigarettes would no longer create or sustain addiction ... needs to be the cornerstone of our efforts", he said.

"Our American subsidiary, Reynolds American Inc. and its operating companies are encouraged by FDA Commissioner Dr Scott Gottlieb's comments today recognising tobacco harm reduction policies and the continuum of risk for tobacco products", the company said in a statement. Now, makers have until August 8, 2022 to submit applications, as opposed to next year. An Advance Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (ANPRM) is indented to be issued by the agency, through which seeking input on possible benefits on public health as well as any probable negative effects of decreasing the nicotine in cigarettes can be done.

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So the plan is to reduce nicotine levels in cigarettes, while leaving it in other products, like aids to quit smoking and e-cigarettes. This also exempts provisions of the final rule like compulsory age and photo-ID checks for preventing illegal sales to minors, of which compliance deadlines are already over.

However, Myers criticized it as "a serious error" for the FDA to significantly delay critical deadlines for complying with the agency's 2016 rule establishing oversight of electronic cigarettes, cigars and other previously unregulated tobacco products.

Mitch Zeller, J.D., director of the FDA's Center for Tobacco Products said: "This comprehensive plan and sweeping approach to tobacco and nicotine allows the FDA to apply the powerful tools given by Congress to achieve the most significant public health impact".

The agency will also review its position on premium cigars, reopening a discussion on special regulations for these cigars, he said.

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