The American Medicines Agency (FDA), which regulates the tobacco market, must present its proposed rules; these are likely to be fiercely contested by the tobacco industry.
“Nicotine is highly addictive,” FDA chief Robert Califf said in a statement. “Making cigarettes and other burnt tobacco products minimally or non-addictive would help save lives.”
The process is expected to take years and could be delayed by litigation or reversed by an upcoming tobacco lobby-friendly administration.
“Nicotine addiction in burn products is the primary driver of sustained use of these products,” the FDA added in its statement.
The initiative is part of a larger health program to reduce cancer deaths, which President Joe Biden has promised to cut by 50% over 25 years.
Cancer is the second leading cause of death in the United States after cardiovascular disease. Tobacco is the main preventable cause of death in the country with 480,000 tobacco-related deaths recorded each year.
These new FDA proposals will be published and open for public comment. Each of these comments — potentially tens of thousands — will need to be investigated, as required by law.
The FDA, long in favor of reducing the level of nicotine in cigarettes, pledged in April 2021 to ban the sale of menthol cigarettes, a measure that “will save hundreds of thousands of lives”.
Menthol cigarettes are considered a gateway to smoking, encouraging young people in particular to start smoking, and are associated with greater addiction.
Donald Trump’s administration previously banned most e-cigarette flavors, while exempting menthol.
And at the end of 2019, Congress passed a law raising the minimum age to buy tobacco and electronic cigarettes across the country from 18 to 21.