In an unprecedented move, the Food and Drug Administration proposed to cut the nicotine content of cigarettes. This regulation in considered historic in addressing the widespread health problem of cigarette smoking.
U.S. FDA Commissioner Scott Gottlieb MD announced an advanced notice of proposed rulemaking as part of the government's comprehensive tobacco regulatory plan.
Deaths and diseases caused by tobacco addiction are preventable, but despite aggressive efforts, the FDA said cigarette smoking still kills more than 480,000 Americans annually.
New Rules On Nicotine Content
The proposal on "Tobacco Product Standard for Nicotine Level of Combusted Cigarettes" aims to lower nicotine in cigarettes to minimally or non-addictive levels. This new regulatory step, according to the FDA, will advance a comprehensive policy framework that could help avoid millions of tobacco-related deaths across the country.
"Given their combination of toxicity, addictiveness, prevalence and effect on non-users, it's clear that to maximize the possible public health benefits of our regulation, we must focus our efforts on the death and disease caused by addiction to combustible cigarettes," says Gottlieb.
One possible scenario presented in the scientific study published in the New England Journal of Medicine limits to 0.4 milligrams the nicotine content in every gram of tobacco. The amount is 97 percent lower than the current nicotine levels in typical cigarettes.
If this is achieved, more Americans would quit smoking, and smoking rate could be lowered to only 1.4 percent from the current level of 15 percent.
Significantly slashing nicotine could help an estimate of 5 million adult smokers quit within a year. It can also prevent more than 33 million people from becoming regular smokers by the year 2100.
"More than 8 million lives would be saved by the end of the century," Gottlieb said.
Early Smoking Influences Tobacco Addiction
According to a study, majority of cigarette smokers in the United States started smoking during their youth. The age at which a person begins to smoke can greatly influence the frequency and duration of smoking.
These factors contribute to the risks of tobacco-related diseases and death later in life.
"Addiction to nicotine in tobacco is critical in the transition of smokers from experimentation to sustained smoking and in the continuation of smoking for those who want to quit," says Benjamin Apelberg, supervisory epidemiologist at the FDA and lead author of the study.
Tobacco Use And Smoking Statistics
Based on data from the Centers on Disease Control and Prevention, tobacco use is the primary cause of preventable disease, disability, and death in the country.
Almost 40 million adults smoke cigarettes, and about 4.7 million middle and high school students use at least one tobacco product, including e-cigarettes.
Each day, more than 3,800 youth younger than 18 years old smoke their first cigarette.
Truth Initiative, a Washington DC-based organization that advocates tobacco-free living, applauded the FDA's move and said the agency must take vigorous enforcement steps to make sure that no tobacco products are marketed to kids, including e-cigarettes.
"To achieve its intended purpose, we strongly believe that any future regulation must apply the nicotine reduction plan to ALL combustible tobacco products including cigars, little cigars, cigarillos and loose tobacco that can be used in roll-your-own cigarettes," according to Robin Koval, CEO and President of Truth Initiative.
The new FDA notice will be published in the Federal Register this week.