FDA Wants To Clamp Down on Nicotine Levels in Cigarettes

Agency proposes most sweeping regulation overall in 20 years

Another blow, so to speak, for smokers: The FDA wants to cut the nicotine in cigarettes down to nonaddictive levels. The FDA wants smokers to switch to smokeless tobacco and e-cigarettes, as well, the Wall Street Journal reports.

“Shares of major tobacco companies, which have been reaping growing profits in the U.S. market even as the number of smokers dwindles, tumbled Friday on the surprise move,” the newspaper reports.

But even if the sweeping regulation overhaul that would include these measures make it into law, cigarettes will still pose a health problem, FDA Commissioner Scott Gottlieb tells the WSJ. “Cigarettes will likely remain incredibly toxic. … We may be able to reach a day when the most harmful products will no longer be capable of addicting our children.”

Nicotine makes cigarettes addictive. However, they’re not the ingredients that cause cancer, lung disease, and heart disease. Those other ingredients are what cause the deaths of nearly 480,000 Americans a year.

Not everybody’s convinced that the proposed moves would actually work. Such sweeping change “would take years to develop and would likely be litigated,” the newspaper reports. “Others questioned the public-health benefit, suggesting smokers would just smoke more cigarettes to compensate for the lower levels of nicotine.”

The FDA’s effort represents the biggest step to regulate the tobacco industry since 1998, when the industry was forced to pay $100 billion to states to help fight health problems created by smoking.

Public opinion had been turning against Big Tobacco. Joe Camel stopped being cool and made his last appearance on July 12, 1997, because all cartoons were banned from cigarette marketing. R. J. Reynolds’ denials that the character had been used to lure children into the habit didn’t sway regulators.

Source: Wall Street Journal; July 28, 2017.