The U.S. Food and Drug Administration is aiming to lower nicotine in cigarettes to non-addictive levels.
The agency on Friday announced a regulatory roadmap and shifts as part of a larger attempt to tackle tobacco-related disease and death, saying it "plans to begin a public dialogue about lowering nicotine levels in combustible cigarettes to non-addictive levels through achievable product standards."
"Because nicotine lives at the core of both the problem and the solution to the question of addiction, addressing the addictive levels of nicotine in combustible cigarettes must be part of the FDA's strategy for addressing the devastating addiction crisis that is threatening American families," FDA Commissioner Scott Gottlieb said in a statement. "Our approach to nicotine must be accompanied by a firm foundation of rules and standards for newly regulated products. To be successful, all of these steps must be done in concert and not in isolation."
The FDA signaled it will explore how to move traditional cigarette smokers toward alternatives like e-cigarettes, and examine the use of flavored tobacco products that have been said to appeal to teens and children.
The agency also plans to extend a timeline for newer cigar, pipe tobacco and hookah tobacco manufacturers to submit product-review applications until Aug. 8, 2021. A similar submission deadline for e-cigarettes would be pushed back to 2022.
"This action will afford the agency time to explore clear and meaningful measures to make tobacco products less toxic, appealing and addictive," the FDA said in its announcement.
Tobacco use is a leading cause of preventable disease and death nationwide, and is linked to more than 480,000 deaths each year, according to the FDA. Nearly 90 percent of adult smokers began before the age of 18, and almost 2,500 youths smoke their first cigarette each day in the U.S., the agency said.
Gottlieb also said 5.6 million young people will die prematurely later in life from tobacco use if a change isn't made.
"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," Gottlieb said.
The FDA has had the authority to cut nicotine levels in cigarettes since 2009 but has not done so, according to The Associated Press.
Its announcement Friday reportedly triggered a plunge in traditional cigarette company stocks.
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