Deaths and diseasescaused by tobacco addiction are preventable, but despite aggressive efforts, the FDA said cigarette smoking still kills more than 480,000 Americans annually.
'We believe the public health benefits and the potential to save millions of lives, both in the near and long term, support this effort, ' wrote commissioner Dr Scott Gottlieb, citing his agency's estimate that as many as five million Americans might be able to quite within a year of a nicotine standard's introduction- whatever it might be.
In recent years, tobacco companies have lobbied against regulations on e-cigarettes and cigars.
Most manufactured cigarettes now contain 10-15 mg of nicotine per cigarette.
There has been no clear decision on much nicotine the FDA intends to cut, or how quickly implementation will be, NPR reports.
The FDA will conduct a comprehensive review of the scientific evidence involving nicotine's role in cigarette addiction and seek input from the public. And although a potential nicotine product standard for cigarettes is the cornerstone of our approach, we also continue to push forward on additional pieces of the FDA's multi-year plan created to work in concert to better protect kids and significantly reduce tobacco-related disease and death.
Donny said a lengthy regulatory process would be reasonable given the sweep of the FDA's initiative and the prospect of a rapid reduction in smokers' exposure to nicotine. Currently, the FDA is seeking public comment, and additional data, on how to go about developing such a rule.
I think if this could be implemented, it could be a tremendous boon for public health. The hopes are that this could reduce the rate of tobacco-related deaths by over 8 million by the end of the century.
Gottlieb said answers will be sought on questions such as, "What potential maximum nicotine level would be appropriate for the protection of public health?"
Reduced-nicotine cigarettes - such as Marlboro Ultra Lights, which contain 0.5 milligrams of nicotine apiece - have been on the US market for years, but they aren't very popular and smoking-cessation groups have been reluctant to endorse them, citing the harmful chemicals generated by any combustible product.
"Our plan demonstrates a greater awareness that nicotine, while highly addictive, is delivered through products on a continuum of risk", Gottlieb said in a statement.
"To achieve its intended objective, we strongly believe that any future regulation must apply the nicotine reduction plan to ALL combustible tobacco products including cigars, little cigars, cigarillos and loose tobacco that can be used in roll-your-own cigarettes", according to Robin Koval, CEO and President of Truth Initiative.
Altria Group Inc., the Henrico County-based parent company of top US cigarette maker Philip Morris USA, said Thursday that the FDA's action is "a request for information, not a proposed rule, and is the first step in a multi-year process that will require the agency to examine and resolve many complex issues". At this time, however, no specific nicotine limit has been set.
The health benefits of the policy are obvious and the resulting economic benefits would be enormous.
Such low-nicotine-content cigarettes already exist for research purposes.
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