Bioethics News

The FDA Just Took a Radical Step to Cut Nicotine in Cigarettes So They’re Not Addictive

July 28, 2017

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The Food and Drug Administration on Friday announced a groundbreaking new plan to try to reduce the numbers of Americans killed by tobacco by lowering the nicotine in tobacco products like cigarettes so that they’re no longer addictive.

“Unless we change course, 5.6 million young people alive today will die prematurely later in life from tobacco use,” said FDA Commissioner Scott Gottlieb in a statement. “Envisioning a world where cigarettes would no longer create or sustain addiction, and where adults who still need or want nicotine could get it from alternative and less harmful sources, needs to be the cornerstone of our efforts — and we believe it’s vital that we pursue this common ground.”

Smoking has long been the leading cause of preventable premature death and illness in the US, and is responsible for more than 480,000 deaths a year. Experts have been arguing since 1994 that lowering nicotine levels could curb addiction to tobacco products and reduce the associated deaths. A 2013 article by Kenneth Warner, a professor of public health at the University of Michigan, argued for the need for “radical ‘endgame’ strategies” like nicotine reduction in cigarettes “to eliminate the toll of tobacco.”

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