FDA takes on nicotine to try curbing smoking

New proposed Food and Drug Administration rules could mark the biggest change to tobacco regulation since Congress mandated warning labels on cigarettes in 1970.

The proposals would require tobacco companies to reduce the nicotine content in smoking products. The FDA would not specify how much the nicotine content would have to be reduced other than to say, “significantly.”

“We’re looking to induce the riskiest products, which are combustible cigarettes, less addictive, ” FDA Commissioner Scott Gottlieb told Fox News.

Advances in tobacco plant genetic modification have allowed scientists to lower nicotine content, as have leeching techniques , not unlike coffee decaffeination.

Matthew Myers, president of the Campaign for Tobacco Free Kids. told Fox News that if approved, the new regulations will put tobacco companies to the test.

“If you eliminate the nicotine, if you reduce the addictiveness of the product, the smoker will actually have a real free choice, ” he said. “Phillip Morris International has been promoting itself as a company that wants to move current tobacco users from products that kill them to products that don’t kill them. We’ll find out if they mean it.”

Some question the potential effectiveness of the proposed changes, fearing that if nicotine is reduced significantly, long time adult smokers may seek black market alternatives to get their nicotine fix.

“They find that it helps them concentrate. It relaxes them, ” said Dr. Sally Satel, a psychiatrist who has written extensive about craving at the American Enterprise Institute. “These are the individuals who often have quite a bit of trouble quit, which is why a safer style to get nicotine is a godsend for people like this.”

As a part of the tobacco regulation proposal, the FDA also wants to further study smokeless alternatives, like nicotine patches and vaping.

“We need to properly evaluate them and put them through a proper regulatory process. That’s going to take a number of years, so we have delayed certain regulations so that we have the time to do that, ” said FDA’s Gottlieb.

Critics preserve the FDA has been slow to realize the added benefit of vaping and e-cigarettes. A British government examine find an increase in vaping has been matched by a corresponding decrease in smoking.

It also received strong evidence that vaping has been highly effective in helping people quit smoking.

British researchers also found that e-cigarettes are 95 percent safer than smoking.

While the FDA embarks on the vaping survey, it has simultaneously launched an educational advertising campaign to dissuade children and teens from vaping.

Doug McKelway joined Fox News Channel( FNC) in November 2010 and serves as a Washington-based correspondent. Click here for more information on Doug McKelway.

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