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The FDA proposes reducing nicotine levels in cigarettes; ACS CAN reacts

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration is proposing cutting the nicotine level in cigarettes to make them less addictive.

On July 29, FDA chief Scott Gottlieb directed the agency's staff to develop new regulations on nicotine. The FDA has had the power since 2009 to regulate nicotine levels. 

As part of the new strategy, the FDA is giving e-cigarette makers four more years to comply with a review of products already on the market. The agency intends to write rules that balance safety with e-cigarettes' role in helping smokers quit, Gottlieb said.

A statement from the American Cancer Society Cancer Action Network (ACS CAN) follows:

“We applaud the FDA for recognizing its significant role as a science-based agency in helping address the addictiveness of nicotine in cigarettes, products that kill an estimated 480,000 Americans each year. Commissioner Gottlieb’s vision of potentially reducing nicotine in cigarettes to below addictive levels could begin to create a critical public health strategy to address the leading cause of cancer and preventable death due to the use of cigarettes. 

“Additionally, the FDA announced that it will examine actions to increase access to and use of FDA-approved tobacco cessation medications in order to help tobacco users quit.

“Several actions presented by the FDA have the potential to help save lives from tobacco use. The FDA calls for reviewing the role of flavorings in tobacco products that are often attractive to youth through rulemaking. In the eight years following passage of the Tobacco Control Act, the tobacco industry has taken full advantage to exploit the lack of regulations of flavorings. Their tactics of targeting youth with electronic cigarettes advertising, promotions and flavorings have dramatically increased the use of e-cigarettes among kids. In addition to addressing flavorings, we ask the FDA to regulate the aggressive marketing practices of the tobacco industry which also contribute to youth use.

“We are encouraged the FDA is using its authority in several ways to prevent youth from starting to use tobacco products and help current users quit, however we urge the FDA to reconsider steps that would weaken the agency’s oversight over tobacco products, including cheap and flavored cigars which are popular with adolescents, and e-cigarettes. Specifically, we are concerned about the action to reconsider the regulation of so-called premium cigars. No tobacco product should escape the FDA’s oversight. The final deeming rule issued in May 2016 was based on the scientific evidence and any modification must be scientifically justified.

“The actions to extend the compliance date for manufacturers to submit marketing applications for newly deemed products will allow many cigars, e-cigarettes, and other tobacco products to stay on the market for years before a crucial first-step review by the FDA to determine their public health risk. We are concerned these extensions will perpetuate the wild west marketplace we are experiencing with new tobacco products. 

“The FDA must use the full force of its authority in a scientific and transparent manner if we’re going to save lives, keep kids from starting lifelong, deadly addictions and end the scourge of tobacco on the American people in our lifetime. We look forward to working with the FDA as it embarks on examination of a number of significant and potentially lifesaving steps.”

Tobacco use is the leading cause of preventable heart disease, cancer, and death in the U.S.

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