WASHINGTON : With the aim to tackle tobacco use and cigarette smoking in particular, the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has "in a historic step" decided to lower nicotine in combustible cigarettes to minimal or non-addictive levels, the regulatory body said in a statement.
The FDA unveiled an advance notice of proposed rule-making (ANPRM) to explore a product standard to lower nicotine in cigarettes to minimal or non-addictive levels.
The ANPRM provides a wide-ranging review of the current scientific understanding about the role nicotine plays in creating or sustaining addiction to cigarettes and seeks comments on key areas, as well as additional research and data for public review.
"We're taking a pivotal step today that could ultimately bring us closer to our vision of a world where combustible cigarettes would no longer create or sustain addiction - making it harder for future generations to become addicted" Scott Gottlieb, FDA Commissioner, said in a statement late on Thursday.
The move would also "allow more currently addicted smokers to quit or switch to potentially less harmful products", Gottlieb said, adding it would also "help avoid millions of tobacco-related deaths across the country".
Earlier in a tweet, Gottlieb said: "Today #FDA took a historic first step to advance our rule-making process to render combustible cigarettes minimally or non addictive through regulation of nicotine levels under the FDA's tobacco product standard."
The move is part of the FDA's comprehensive plan on tobacco and nicotine regulation announced last summer.
The ANPRM, also includes new analysis published in the New England Journal of Medicine, based on a possible policy scenario for a nicotine product standard.
The analysis suggests that by slashing nicotine levels smoking rates could drop from the current 15 per cent to as low as 1.4 percent.
Within an year of implementation, approximately five million additional adult smokers could quit smoking.
By 2100, more than 33 million people -- mostly youth and young adults -- would have avoided becoming regular smokers, which could result in more than eight million fewer tobacco-caused deaths through the end of the century - an undeniable public health benefit, Gottlieb said.
In addition, the FDA also plans to issue two additional ANPRMs: one to seek comments on the role that flavours - including menthol - play in initiation, use and cessation of tobacco products.