"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", FDA Commissioner Scott Gottlieb said at the time.
He added that the FDA will soon issue two additional ANPRMs: one to seek data and comment on the role that flavors - including menthol - play in the initiation, use and cessation of tobacco products, and another to further explore the regulation of premium cigars.
In discussing his comprehensive tobacco strategy on Thursday, Gottlieb said he sees "a historic opportunity" to use nicotine reduction as a way to move smokers from conventional cigarettes to products that provide nicotine without the serious health hazards posed by burning tobacco.
Tobacco kills more than 480,000 Americans each year and costs $300 billion a year in health care. The shift could reduce the current USA smoking rate from 15 percent to as low as 1.4 percent, the FDA said, and prevent 8 million tobacco-related deaths by the end of the century.
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Matthew Myers, president of Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids, warned of the dangers of taking it too slow.
The study was published March 14 in the journal Nicotine & Tobacco Research. Would limits on nicotine foster the growth of a black market in high-nicotine cigarettes? Should a new standard be implemented all at once or gradually?
The agency cited research that could support reducing levels of nicotine to 0.3 to 0.5 milligrams per cigarette. "What unintended consequences - such as the potential for illicit trade or for addicted smokers to compensate for lower nicotine by smoking more - might occur as a result?"
U.S. regulators Thursday opened the door to slashing the amount of nicotine in cigarettes in order to make them less addictive, a move that could mean millions fewer smokers in the years to come.
This article was reprinted from khn.org with permission from the Henry J. Kaiser Family Foundation.