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FDA proposes lower nicotine levels in cigarettes


Mr. Zeller said that seeking comments on those levels is based on the scientific evidence that is laid out in the advanced notice, but it is not necessarily foreshadowing where the standard will be set.

Drastically reducing the amount of nicotine in cigarettes is expected to significantly lower not only the number of people addicted to cigarettes but also as the negative health effects of nicotine addiction, FDA experts wrote in a perspective piece published March 15 in the New England Journal of Medicine (doi: 10.1065/NEJMsr1714617).

“Our findings show that reducing the nicotine level in cigarettes has the potential to substantially reduce the enormous burden of smoking-related death and disease,” Benjamin J. Apelberg, PhD, director of the Division of Population Health Science, Office of Science, within the FDA Center for Tobacco Products, and his colleagues, wrote in the report.

Modeling for the implementation of a lower nicotine level policy suggests that smoking prevalence will decline from a median of 12.8% in baseline scenario to a median of 10.8% within a year of implementation, with the increase related to smoking cessation.

“We estimate that approximately 5 million additional smokers would quit smoking within a year after implementation of the hypothetical policy,” Dr. Apelberg and his colleagues wrote. “By 2060, smoking prevalence drops from 7.9% in the baseline scenario to 1.4% in the policy scenario.”

Their analysis is based on a nicotine level that is “so low that there would not be enough nicotine available in cigarette tobacco for smokers to sustain addiction,” they noted.

The FDA plans to release two more advanced notices of proposed rule making related to using regulatory levers to reduce cigarette smoking, including one that addresses flavoring in tobacco and one related to the regulation of premium cigars. Other than the 90-day comment period related to the advanced notices, the agency has not set any deadlines on when it will act.

“Legally, we are not going to prejudge how long this will take or what will happen,” Mr. Zeller said. “This is an early step in what could be a potential rule-making process using the product standard authority. We will take a long and hard look at all the comments that come in over the next 90 days and based upon our review of all the information, all the comments that come in, all the feedback that we have, we will then make a decision about taking the next step in the rule-making process.”


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