The U.S. government proposed cutting nicotine in cigarettes to "non-addictive" levels on Friday in a major regulatory shift created to move smokers toward potentially less harmful e-cigarettes.
The new approach places nicotine - and the issue of addiction - at the center of the FDA's efforts. The federal government has proposed cutting levels of nicotine in cigarettes so that these products become less addictive.
Some health proponents, expressed caution, pointing out that the proposal of nicotine-reduction may take years to enact and it may also get derailed by major hurdles, including the significant power of tobacco industry. In addition to the devastating human toll caused mainly by cigarette smoking, tobacco also causes substantial financial costs to society, with direct health care and lost productivity costs totaling almost $300 billion a year.
The results showed that e-cigarette users were more likely than non-users to make a quit attempt (65 percent versus 40 percent) and more likely to succeed in quitting smoking tobacco for at least three months.
Dr. Scott Gottlieb, FDA Commissioner, delivered the address, which introduced a new era of tobacco regulation for the agency.
The announcement sent the stocks of cigarette manufacturers tumbling.
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Tobacco consumption is one of the main reasons for preventable heart disease and cancer in the U.S. It is said to cause over 480,000 deaths every year.
The current requirements for smokeless tobacco and cigarettes will not be affected by the probable enforcement of the policy.
The agency intends to extend timelines to submit tobacco product review applications for newly regulated tobacco products that were on the market as of August 8, 2016.
According to Commissioner Gottlieb, the approach to nicotine must be accompanied by a strict base of rules and standards for newly-regulated products which should be done in concert and not in isolation, if it is to be successful.
"Importantly, we expect the FDA will encourage continued RRP innovation with the goal of increasing adoption of these products - a huge positive for MO [Altria Group] and PM [Phillip Morris International]", said Bonnie Herzog, managing director of Wells Fargo Securities.
"But this analysis presents a strong case that e-cigarette use also played an important role". Following up on that, the FDA has announced a regulatory plan that could shift the trajectory on tobacco-related disease and death.