FDA Makes 1st Move to Reduce Nicotine in Cigarettes

The goal is 'minimally addictive or nonaddictive' cigarettes
By Michael Harthorne,  Newser Staff
Posted Mar 15, 2018 2:25 PM CDT
In this Thursday, Nov. 10, 2016 file photo, test cigarettes sit in a smoking machine in a lab at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in Atlanta.   (AP Photo/Branden Camp)

(Newser) – Are nonaddictive cigarettes the future of smoking? The FDA on Thursday made its first move to reduce the nicotine in cigarettes to "minimally addictive or nonaddictive" levels, NPR reports. According to the Washington Post, the FDA was given the power to regulate tobacco in 2009 and first announced plans to reduce nicotine content in July. Now the agency is reviewing current research on nicotine and addiction while accepting public comments on possible nicotine cap levels and implementations, the Wall Street Journal reports. “We’re taking a pivotal step today that could ultimately bring us closer to our vision of a world where combustible cigarettes would no longer create or sustain addiction," the Post quotes FDA Commissioner Scott Gottlieb as saying.

In its announcement, the FDA cited new data from the New England Journal of Medicine that found capping nicotine levels in cigarettes could help 5 million adult smokers quit the habit within a year. The research found that by the year 2100 nicotine caps could reduce smoking rates from 15% to 1.4%, saving 8 million lives. While the FDA hasn't said what the maximum nicotine content for cigarettes would be, the research it cited advocated for a reduction from 1.1 to 1.7 milligrams per cigarette to 0.3 to 0.5 milligrams. So far, the tobacco industry is keeping calm. "As this process gets underway, we look forward to working with FDA on its science-based review of nicotine levels in cigarettes," NPR quotes an executive at RJ Reynolds Tobacco Company as saying.

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