FDA: Nicotine Levels In Cigarettes Are Going Down

By Bryan Le 03/19/18

Anti-smoking groups are welcoming the new plan with open arms.

Cigarette opened up with tobacco poured out.
Cutting the amount of nicotine per cigarette could cut the amount of smokers.

The FDA announced last Thursday that it plans to cut the amount of nicotine in cigarettes. By reducing the amount of the addictive ingredient in cigarettes, the FDA hopes that smokers will find it easier to quit and new would-be smokers will fail to feel the appeal.

“Despite years of aggressive efforts to tackle the leading cause of preventable disease and death in the United States, tobacco use—largely cigarette smoking—still kills more than 480,000 Americans every single year,” said FDA Commissioner Scott Gottlieb. “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.”

While the plan is definitively in place, the actual numbers haven’t yet been agreed upon. Exactly how much and how fast the nicotine will be depleted from each new cigarette made is yet to be determined.

Research cited by the FDA found that a drop of 1.1 to 1.7 milligrams of nicotine per cigarette to 0.3 to 0.5 milligrams of nicotine per cigarette could help about 5 million smokers quit, and prevent 33 million from developing the habit by the year 2100.

Anti-smoking groups are welcoming the new plan with open arms.

“The announcement today is potentially the most significant public health step the Food and Drug Administration has taken in decades,” said Matthew Myers of the Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids. “The benefits laid out in this proposal are of such an extraordinary nature that it compels rapid action. It is a public health urgency to move forward rapidly.”

Downsides to the action could include smokers inhaling the cigarette smoke more deeply than before to maximize their nicotine hit, or seeking out high-nicotine cigarettes on the black market. However, the FDA believes there are ways to limit these problems.

Despite this being huge news for the tobacco industry, cigarette giants haven’t raised much of a stink.

“As this process gets underway, we look forward to working with FDA on its science-based review of nicotine levels in cigarettes and to build on the opportunity of establishing a regulatory framework that is based on tobacco harm reduction and recognizes the continuum of risk,” wrote James Figlar, executive vice president of research and development for R.J. Reynolds Tobacco Company, in a statement.

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Bryan Le grew up in the 90's, so the Internet is practically his third parent. This combined with a love for journalism led him to The Fix. When he isn't fulfilling his duties as Editorial Coordinator, he's obsessing over fancy keyboards he can't justify buying. Find Bryan on LinkedIn or Twitter