FDA takes pivotal step in plan to cut nicotine in cigarettes

Global Business

A view shows the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) headquarters in Silver SpringA view shows the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) headquarters in Silver Spring, Maryland August 14, 2012. (REUTERS/Jason Reed)

The Trump administration is undertaking the most significant effort to clamp down on tobacco smoking in a generation. The plan is to drastically reduce the amount of nicotine in cigarettes to try to break the cycle of addiction.

Smokeless tobacco, or e-cigarettes, will also be regulated for the first time.

CGTN’s Daniel Ryntes reports.

Tobacco use remains the single largest preventable cause of death and disease in the United States, killing over 480,000 Americans each year and costing nearly $300 billion a year in medical bills and lost productivity.

“The magnitude of these numbers is hard to fathom. But I’m sure that every person in this room has had a friend or loved one made ill or worse because of tobacco use. And as a doctor I can tell you that tobacco-caused diseases, especially cancer and lung disease, are extremely painful,” explained U.S. Food and Drug Administration Commissioner, Scott Gottlieb.

The damage is caused not by the nicotine in these products, but by around 69 of the 7,000 chemicals contained in each inhalation and absorbed through the lungs which are known to cause cancer.

The U.S. regulator, the Food and Drug Administration, plans to lower the nicotine level in smoking products to non-addictive levels.

“Unless we change course, 5.6 million children alive today will die prematurely later in life from tobacco use.  A renewed focus on nicotine can help us to achieve a world where cigarettes no longer addict future generations of our kids; and where adults who still need or want nicotine can get it from alternative and less harmful sources,” Gottlieb added.

The rapid expansion of the use of multiple brands of e-cigarettes, pipes and cigars has been an encouraging development for health advocates, but also a concern. The products have until now been without regulatory oversight.

“We have enough evidence from the e-cigarette side of the equation to know that a lot of those products are 95 percent plus lower in the risk than the deadly. But we’d tighten it up and we’d rather make sure that there are not abusers out there, with so many manufacturers on the scene,” Scott D. Ballin, a health policy consultant, said.

The FDA is giving the industry time to adjust their business models. Manufacturers will need to submit applications for approval of smoking products with lowered nicotine levels by August 2021 and submit smokeless products for approval by August 2022. The products will need to avoid tastes or marketing which could appeal to children.

Some anti-smoking groups including ‘Truth Initiative’ welcome the changes but says the delay will enable the industry to continue appealing to future generations for several years before the new regulations come into force.

Dr. Joel L. Nitzkin on the FDA’s push to limit nicotine in cigarettes

CGTN’s Rachelle Akuffo spokea to Joel L. Nitzkin, senior fellow in tobacco policy for the R Street Institute, about the FDA’s move to curb nicotine in cigarettes.