FDA Plans to Curb Nicotine Levels in Tobacco

Caroline Cassels

July 28, 2017

The US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has announced it will pursue lowering the nicotine content of cigarettes to nonaddictive levels as part of an overall plan to protect youth and reduce tobacco-related disease and death.

"The overwhelming amount of death and disease attributable to tobacco is caused by addiction to cigarettes – the only legal consumer product that, when used as intended, will kill half of all long-term users," said FDA Commissioner Scott Gottlieb, MD, said in a release.

"Unless we change course, 5.6 million young people alive today will die prematurely later in life from tobacco use. Envisioning a world where cigarettes would no longer create or sustain addiction, and where adults who still need or want nicotine could get it from alternative and less harmful sources, needs to be the cornerstone of our efforts – and we believe it's vital that we pursue this common ground," he added.

The FDA also announced it will "strike an appropriate balance between regulation and encouraging development of innovative tobacco products that may be less dangerous than cigarettes."

Reaction to the announcement has been swift. Former FDA Commissioner Rob Califf (@calif001) applauded the move on Twitter:

"Following through on this remarkable plan will prevent more death & disability than any other biomedical policy or scientific advance. Bravo!"

"Tobacco made simple: nicotine, addicts; rest of leaf causes death and disability. Get the nicotine out of leaf & smoking will drop like a rock."

But reaction hasn't been all positive. The FDA also announced it will delay its regulation of e-cigarettes and cigars by several years, prompting Eric Lindblom, former director of the office of policy for tobacco products at the FDA, to issue a release decrying this move.

"Any significant delay in enforcing the provisions of the already final deeming rule, which requires new and significantly changed brands of e-cigarettes and cigars to obtain orders from FDA before being allowed on the US market, is seriously troubling," Lindblom said.

"If the FDA were truly concerned about protecting the public health, the agency would not extend the deadlines at all, or it would at least extend the deadlines only for those e-cigarettes and cigars that meet certain minimum standards and only for those smaller tobacco companies that might not have sufficient resources to meet the existing deadlines," he added.


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