FDA aims to lower nicotine levels in cigarettes to combat addiction

Frederick Owens
August 7, 2017

It aims at ensuring that the FDA has a scientific, as well as regulatory, foundation for the effective and proficient implementation of the Family Smoking Prevention and Tobacco Control Act.

"Despite the initial anxiety, we do not see the FDA's landmark decision as a frontal attack on the industry (only on combustibles) as we do not think the FDA will eventually ban nicotine across all tobacco products", the bank said.

The FDA's regulations for e-cigarette products were announced last May, which were so stringent that some people were anxious it could deal a blow to the burgeoning industry, even as evidence pointed to vaping helping smokers to quit. The agency will also seek input on critical public health issues such as the role of flavors in tobacco products.

The FDA did not release the specific amount of nicotine that would need to be removed to establish a non-addictive cigarette.

According to the US FDA, cigarette smoking is responsible for more than 480,000 deaths per year in the United States, as well as an estimated USD 300 billion dollars in direct health care and lost productivity costs.

For e-cigarettes, the agency extended the deadline by up to four years, and up to three years for cigar companies, to comply with a 2016 rule that gave the FDA oversight over the products, giving them more time on the market without regulation.

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"Unless we change course, 5.6 million young people alive today will die prematurely later in life from tobacco use", said FDA Commissioner Scott Gottlieb.

If cigarettes are no longer addictive, "we can take a more balanced approach to some of the newer innovations that might have the potential to help current combustible cigarette smokers transition off combustible cigarettes and on to products that might be less harmful", Gottlieb said. He emphasizes that his must be the focus of the FDA's efforts and pursuit for common ground. Setting a "non-addictive" threshold might prove impossible, especially since some smokers inhale more nicotine from the same cigarette while others metabolize slower.

According to Commissioner Gottlieb, the approach to nicotine must be accompanied by a strict base of rules and standards for newly-regulated products which should be done in concert and not in isolation, if it is to be successful. The FDA hasn't set a firm timeline for the new policies but calls the plan "a multi-year roadmap".

The bank also believes there is a buying opportunity in stocks that are on top of the market for alternatives to regular cigarettes, including novel nicotine products. The manufacturers are expected to continue marketing the products while the reviewing of the application is done by the FDA.

BAT is "the largest vapour company in the world and the successful completion of the Reynolds acquisition bolsters our leading position in both NGPs and combustibles", said chairman Richard Burrows. Following up on that, the FDA has announced a regulatory plan that could shift the trajectory on tobacco-related disease and death.

The FDA rolled out a second major announcement at the same time.

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