FDA seeks to make cigarettes less addictive
Shares of major tobacco companies tumbled after the announcement
U.S. health officials said Friday they are considering new standards that would require tobacco companies to reduce nicotine in cigarettes to nonaddictive levels, as part of a sweeping review of industry regulations.
Shares of major tobacco companies tumbled on the move by the Food and Drug Administration. Marlboro maker Altria Group Inc. was down more than 9% midafternoon, while British American Tobacco PLC, maker of Camel cigarettes, was down 5%.
The agency said it was adopting a harm-reduction strategy that seeks to balance regulation of existing products and encourage development of “new products that may be less dangerous.” It will examine the role of menthol and other flavors.
The FDA will consider an exemption for premium cigars, and allow more time for makers of reduced-risk products to submit applications under the agency’s rules, FDA Commissioner Scott Gottlieb said. “Cigarettes will likely remain incredibly toxic,” he said. “We may be able to reach a day when the most harmful products will no longer be capable of addicting our kids.”
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. Cigarette smoke, not nicotine, is what causes cancer, heart and lung disease.
“The problem is not just nicotine, the problem is the delivery mechanism,” Gottlieb said. Cigarettes kill 480,000 people in the U.S. each year, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
E-cigarettes and vaping devices for sale in August 2016 won’t be subject to review until 2021 or 2022. The agency also will consider the potential black market for cigarettes.
Some antismoking advocates and public health officials have been urging the FDA and CDC to provide the public with information on the relative risks of tobacco products. Until now, U.S. health officials have stuck with a public abstinence-only message.
The FDA’s shift comes as the agency considers whether to approve marketing claims for new heat-not-burn devices and smokeless tobacco. In April, Reynolds American, which was recently acquired by BAT, submitted applications for six styles of Camel Snus tobacco pouches. Philip Morris has applied for a new device that heats tobacco instead of burning it.