FDA to target addictive levels of nicotine in cigarettes


Associated Press

For the first time, the federal government is proposing cutting the nicotine level in cigarettes so they aren't so addictive.

U.S. Food and Drug Administration chief Scott Gottlieb today directed the agency's staff to develop new regulations on nicotine. The FDA has had the power since 2009 to regulate nicotine levels but hasn't done so. Stocks of cigarette makers plunged after the announcement.

Gottlieb also said the FDA is giving e-cigarette makers four more years to comply with a review of products already on the market. The agency needs to concentrate on nicotine regulation and not be distracted by the debate on whether e-cigarettes help smokers quit, he said.

"A renewed focus on nicotine can help us to achieve a world where cigarettes no longer addict future generations of our kids," Gottlieb said in a speech to staff in Silver Spring, Maryland.

Tar and other substances inhaled through smoking make cigarettes deadly, but the nicotine in tobacco is what makes them addictive. Tobacco use is the leading cause of preventable heart disease, cancer and death in the United States, causing more than 480,000 deaths annually.

Gottlieb said he has asked the FDA's Center for Tobacco Products to explore whether lowering nicotine could create a black market for higher nicotine products and what role e-cigarettes and others forms of nicotine delivery may play in reducing harm from smoking. Battery-powered e-cigarettes turn liquid nicotine into an inhalable vapor.

Gottlieb also wants new rules to address flavored tobacco products and kids.

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