The Biden administration said it will issue a new rule mandating tobacco companies cut nicotine levels in cigarettes in a bid to reduce smoking-related deaths in the U.S.
The Food and Drug Administration will draft a rule to remove most nicotine from cigarettes, according to a notice of a proposed rule posted on the US Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs.
“Because tobacco-related harms primarily result from addiction to products that repeatedly expose users to toxins, FDA would take this action to reduce addictiveness to certain tobacco products, thus giving addicted users a greater ability to quit,” the administration said in the notice for the proposed rule. It said that smoking-related disease kills 480,000 people every year.
In a separate statement, FDA Commissioner Robert M. Califf said that “making cigarettes and other combusted tobacco products minimally addictive or non-addictive would help save lives.”
Issuing the rule will be a lengthy process that will be contested by the tobacco industry.
The Washington Post earlier reported that the administration was planning an announcement. Shares of Altria Group Inc., which sells Marlboro cigarettes in the US, rose 0.9% in New York trading on Tuesday, below the advance of the S&P 500 Index.
In an emailed statement, Altria said the government’s focus “should be less on taking products away from adult smokers and more on providing them a robust marketplace of reduced harm FDA-authorized smoke-free products.” It added that the announcement “marks the start of a long-term process, which must be science-based and account for potentially serious unintended consequences.”
Altria promotes heated tobacco products as a safer alternative to smoking cigarettes.
Another company, 22nd Century Group Inc., last year received regulatory approval to start advertising its cigarettes as having 95% less nicotine than traditional ones. Tobacco companies have argued in the past that removing nicotine isn’t possible, but their position holds less water now that 22nd Century has shown it can be done.
—With assistance from Josh Wingrove