The US Food and Drug Administration issued an "advance notice of proposed rulemaking" on Thursday (Mar. 15) that it is embarking on a quest to "explore" the possibility of lowering nicotine in cigarettes to "minimally or non-addictive levels".
"Tobacco use causes a tremendous toll of death and disease every year and these effects are ultimately the result of addiction to the nicotine contained in combustible cigarettes, leading to repeated exposure to toxicants from such cigarettes", the agency said in the notice.
The possible acceptance of reduced-risk products makes the FDA's announcement a mixed bag for Big Tobacco. "Today's action is a first step, but it will only have an impact if the FDA quickly develops and implements a final regulation".
The FDA first announced plans to cut nicotine content in cigarettes last July but the announcements last Thursday Mark the first formal steps towards making the plan and actuality. Well, as announced by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), a potential solution may be to dramatically reduce the amount of addiction-driving nicotine in cigarettes, thereby hitting the habit's Achilles' heel.
"Such a policy could only have viability if there were viable non-combustion alternatives for smokers, something the FDA has been impeding rather than facilitating to date", said David Sweanor, an adjunct law professor at the University of Ottawa and the author of several electronic-cigarette studies.
The FDA is opening a 90-day public comment period on the proposed rule-making, and officials said they would evaluate the input and determine what steps to take next.
The agency cited research that could support reducing levels of nicotine to 0.3 to 0.5 milligrams per cigarette.
In October, the FDA addressed youth use of e-cigarettes and other electronic nicotine-delivery systems (ENDS) through its "The Real Cost" campaign.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, black Americans smoke fewer cigarettes, but are more pervasively targeted by industry advertisements and more likely to die of smoking-related disease than are whites. But more than 15 percent of US adults remain addicted and tobacco-caused diseases still kill 480,000 Americans every year.
"If this scenario were implemented, this analysis suggests that approximately 5 million additional adult smokers could quit smoking within one year of implementation", Gottlieb said.
What potential maximum nicotine level would be appropriate for the protection of public health?