US FDA aims to cut nicotine in cigarettes, ease e-cigarette rules

Mark Lennihan  AP

Mark Lennihan AP

The goal, Mr Gottlieb added, is to "render cigarettes minimally addictive" by reducing the amount of the harmful and addictive chemical, which they say is the leading cause of preventable death in the US.

"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 in a statement. The agency added that the toll also has a monetary cost, with "direct health care and lost productivity costs totaling almost $300 billion a year".

Kenneth Warner, a retired University of MI public health professor who is a leading authority on smoking and health, said he was pleasantly surprised to learn of the FDA announcement.

According to Bloomberg, tobacco company shares fell precipitously Friday morning after the announcement.

Mr. Gottlieb said the FDA's new approach would consider "a continuum of risk for nicotine delivery", from combustible products such as cigarettes to nicotine-replacement therapies such as nicotine patches and gums.

The policy will also apply to e-cigarettes, which are also known as tobacco vaporisers.

The FDA wants to reduce nicotine levels in cigarettes while moving smokers towards e-cigarettes.

Major tobacco producers saw their share prices tumble on Friday after United States health officials said they would explore ways to cut nicotine levels in cigarettes.

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration Friday announced a comprehensive plan for tobacco and nicotine regulation meant to stop new tobacco users from getting addicted, and lower the number of tobacco-related deaths.

More than 480,000 deaths occur each year in the US from smoking-related illnesses.

The agency says the new plan isn't meant to simply snuff out a multi-billion dollar industry, but rather to encourage companies to develop innovative products that prove to be less risky than cigarettes. Shares of Gillia tumbled 7% while British American Tobacco (BTI - Free Report) stock plunged 9%.

He also stressed the need to properly regulate products like electronic cigarettes, which can deliver nicotine without the harmful compounds found in tobacco smoke.

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