FDA announces plan to cut nicotine in cigarettes

Mark Lennihan  AP

Mark Lennihan AP

British American Tobacco suffered a sharp sell-off in its shares in late trading after the US Food and Drug Aministration announced plans to cut the amount of nicotine in cigarettes.

(Gottlieb) "We need to envision a world where cigarettes lose their addictive potential through reduced nicotine levels".

The agency also announced plans to delay a policy that requires makers of e-cigarettes, or electronic nicotine delivery systems (ENDS), to get agency approval for their products.

Nicotine isn't the only cause of the diseases that come from smoking, but it is the chemical that hooks users because of the effects that it has on the brain. Part of that plan is starting a public dialogue about lowering nicotine levels in combustible cigarettes to be below addictive levels. "It's taken a little while, but it seems the FDA is beginning to realize something the scientific community woke up to years ago: policies aimed at destroying the e-cigarette market actually would result in the unintended outcome of more smokers sticking with traditional combustible cigarettes".

Gottlieb also wants new rules to address flavored tobacco products and kids. This is the first time the administration will attempt to regulate nicotine levels.

British American Tobacco's US subsidiary, Reynolds American Inc., said it was encouraged by Mr. Gottlieb's comments on the relative risks of different tobacco products.

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But it also includes a pledge to look at the role of menthol cigarettes and other flavored tobacco products created to appeal to youth, and the health impacts of smoking premium cigars.

That means e-cigarette companies will be able to keep their products on the market longer, which is drawing criticism from the campaign for tobacco-free kids.

The decision does take a "continuum of risk" approach that will seek to encourage industry innovation particularly in e-cigs/vapor/reduced-risk products (RRPs) and reduce onerous requirements on safer alternatives to cigarettes, according to Bonnie Herzog, managing director-beverage, household & personal care, tobacco and c-stores for Wells Fargo Securities LLC.

Altria said it supported the FDA process.

The news was not just a concern for the USA market, he added.