FDA to propose cuts to cigarette nicotine levels

FDA to propose cuts to cigarette nicotine levels
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The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) announced Friday that it's planning to propose rules to cut the level of nicotine in combustible cigarettes.

FDA Commissioner Scott Gottlieb said the agency will issue an advance notice of proposed rulemaking to start a public dialogue about reducing nicotine levels in combustible cigarettes to nonaddictive levels as part of a new comprehensive multi-year plan to regulate nicotine.

“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,” he said.

“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.”

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The agency said it’s also planning to issue advance notices of proposed rules to get public input on how best to regulate menthol and kid-appealing flavors in tobacco products, including cigars and e-cigarettes.

Critics claim nicotine liquids used in e-cigarettes that are flavored to taste like gummy bears, cotton candy and fruit loops are attracting kids to the product.

The agency said it also plans to develop product standards aimed a making the batteries in e-cigarettes safer and e-liquids packaging childproof, as well as study data on how premium cigars are used and consider excluding them from the regulations.

Additionally, the agency will look at ways to increase access and use of FDA-approved medicinal nicotine products that help smokers quit smoking.

Matthew Myers, president of the Campaign for Tobacco Free Kids, called the FDA’s regulatory agenda a “bold and comprehensive vision” that has the “potential to accelerate progress in reducing tobacco use and the death and disease it causes in the U.S.”

But, he said, there’s no reason to delay the critical deadlines for complying with the FDA’s 2016 rule establishing oversight of electronic cigarettes, cigars and other previously unregulated tobacco products, which the agency also announced Friday.

Still, Myers said if the FDA can implement its agenda quickly and comprehensively as a package, it can bring about transformative change.

“Several of the proposals Dr. Gottlieb made today have particular promise to transform the fight against tobacco use — the No. 1 cause of preventable death in our country,” he said.

“These include proposals to reduce nicotine levels in cigarettes to nonaddictive levels; to regulate the use of flavors in tobacco products, including prohibiting the use of menthol in cigarettes; and to develop more effective tobacco cessation treatments in order to help more smokers quit.”