FDA Devises New Nicotine Regulation To Help Curb Cigarette Addiction

FDA Devises New Nicotine Regulation To Help Curb Cigarette Addiction

The US Food and Drug Administration said it is seeking public reviews and will begin "to explore a product standard to lower nicotine in cigarettes".

As the commissioner explained, a potential nicotine product standard for cigarettes is the cornerstone of the agency's approach; however, the FDA continues to push forward on additional pieces of the multi-year plan created to work in concert to better protect youth and significantly reduce tobacco-related disease and death.

"We look forward to working with FDA on its science-based review of nicotine levels in cigarettes and to build on the opportunity of establishing a regulatory framework that is based on tobacco harm reduction and recognizes the continuum of risk", said Dr. James Figlar, executive vice president of research and development for R.J. Reynolds Tobacco Co.

"This new regulatory step ... could help avoid millions of tobacco-related deaths across the country", Gottlieb said. This means that scientists would modify genes in the tobacco plant so that those that control nicotine production are shut down, Strasser told Live Science. Combustible cigarettes are both the deadliest and the most efficient way to deliver nicotine, he said.

Such low-nicotine-content cigarettes already exist for research purposes.

Tobacco companies were chewing over the proposal.

But these products shouldn't be confused with so-called "light" cigarettes. Those alternative nicotine-delivery products include e-cigarettes or nicotine replacement therapies. For example, these products had ventilation holes to dilute the tobacco smoke with air.

A cigarette contains an average of between 10 and 12 mg of nicotine, but the human body can only absorb 10 percent of that - one to two mg per cigarette.

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One concern is that cutting nicotine in cigarettes could result in smokers smoking more or inhaling smoke more deeply to compensate.

Smokers are "very good at getting the amount of nicotine they want from the cigarettes", Shadel said. Reductions might be achieved through tobacco blending, cross-breeding of plants, genetic engineering, chemical extraction and agricultural practices, the agency said.

So could these cigarettes actually work to reduce nicotine addiction and prevent tobacco-related deaths?

But tobacco makers were forced to admit to deliberately making cigarettes more addictive in an ad campaign that is now running. More research is needed to answer that question, but Strasser and Shadel agreed that early research is promising.

Still, Gottlieb said a new analysis, published online March 15 in the New England Journal of Medicine, has suggested that millions could benefit from the proposed move. The standards would not affect non-combustible tobacco products. But it will be important for the FDA also to move forward on other fronts, she said, including on new e-cigarettes rules that were delayed last summer by Gottlieb.

In 1994 - before the FDA had the legal bandwidth to do anything about it, Dr Neal Benowitz and Dr Jack Henningfield (of the University of California San Francisco and Johns Hopkins University, respectively) recommended that lowering the amount of nicotine in a cigarette to 0.5 mg 'would minimize the addictiveness of cigarettes'.

The FDA hasn't yet decided exactly how much it will cut nicotine or how quickly.

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