Published: Fri, March 16, 2018
Medical | By Alyssa Little

FDA seeks research, public input in fresh move to curb nicotine addiction

FDA seeks research, public input in fresh move to curb nicotine addiction

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Commissioner Scott Gottlieb called the move "an historic first step" to make cigarettes minimally addictive or nonaddictive.

It's the boldest move yet against cigarette makers by the FDA, which only got permission to regulate tobacco products in 2009.

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration is seeking public opinion as well as scientific research on the role nicotine plays in cigarette addiction, the agency said on Thursday, as it aims to lower tobacco-related deaths across the country.

Thursday's action follows Gottlieb's announcement last summer that the agency would pursue a comprehensive plan on tobacco and nicotine regulation in an effort to avert millions of tobacco-related deaths.

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But Myers said FDA should reduce nicotine levels in all combustible tobacco products, not just cigarettes, to prevent people from switching to other harmful products.

"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", he said.

Smoking rates have declined from almost 21 percent in 2005 to 15.5 percent in 2016, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Tobacco kills more than 480,000 Americans each year and costs $300 billion a year in health care.

The FDA didn't give a sense of how long the regulatory process will ultimately take.

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"Should a product standard be implemented all at once or gradually? What unintended consequences - such as the potential for illicit trade or for addicted smokers to compensate for lower nicotine by smoking more - might occur as a result?"

"Today's advance notice is a request for information, not a proposed rule, and is the first step in a multi-year process that will require the agency to examine and resolve many complex issues", said Murray Garnick, executive vice president and general counsel of Altria Group, Inc., which includes tobacco giant Philip Morris.

This is mainly due to encouraging young people to try smoking.

Tobacco companies have carefully engineered their products to be as addictive as possible, said Mitch Zeller, director of the FDA's Center for Tobacco Products.

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