FDA Takes 'Historic' Step To Lower Nicotine In Cigarettes
According to the notice, an evaluation of one possible policy scenario found a nicotine standard could save 8 million lives by the end of the century
Smoking causes 4,80,000 in the United States annually
- This is FDA's first concrete action to reduce nicotine in cigarettes
- It will help in making cigarettes less addictive
- Only 15% adults are currently smoking in the USA
The Food and Drug Administration on Thursday took the first concrete action to reduce nicotine levels in cigarettes to make them less addictive, action that the agency's top official called "historic." Commissioner Scott Gottlieb announced the issuance of an "advanced notice of proposed rulemaking," the earliest step in what is likely to be a complicated regulatory effort to lower nicotine levels. According to the notice, to be published Friday in the Federal Register, an evaluation of one possible policy scenario found a nicotine standard could save 8 million lives by the end of the century - which Gottlieb termed "an undeniable public health benefit."
The agency is asking for public comment on several aspects of the issue.
On Twitter, Gottlieb called the FDA's move "a historic first step" to make cigarettes minimally addictive or nonaddictive.
The action follows his announcement last summer that the agency would pursue a comprehensive plan on tobacco and nicotine regulations in an effort to avoid millions of tobacco-related deaths. Smoking is already at an all-time low in the United States, with only 15 percent of adults lighting up. Tobacco use among young is also at historic low rates. Still, smoking causes 480,000 deaths annually in this country.
Matthew Myers, president of the Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids, an antismoking group, said the move will have "enormous significance" - if the agency moves quickly through the process of developing and adopting a final rule.
"It would be the most significant public health proposal we have seen from the U.S. government in the last 20 years," he said. He added that no regulatory agency anywhere in the world has seriously proposed reducing nicotine in cigarettes.
"While this issue has been discussed conceptually for years," Myers said, "this is first time we have a government agency saying it is achievable, feasible and can be implemented in a way that doesn't cause serious negative consequences."
Still, he added, the process will be challenging, especially considering likely opposition of the tobacco industry.
In his statement, Gottlieb said the agency was seeking public input on critical questions such as what should be the maximum nicotine level in cigarettes and whether such a limit should be implemented all at once or gradually. Other issues, he said, include the potential for illicit trade in high-nicotine cigarettes and whether addicted smokers would compensate for lower nicotine levels by smoking more.
The 2009 Tobacco Control Act gave FDA power to regulate tobacco, though not to ban it.
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