It is with great interest, and some skepticism, that the ATS views the FDA’s recent proposal to reduce nicotine levels in cigarettes to non-addictive levels. In a perfect world, creating a non-addictive cigarette product might be the “silver bullet” we are looking for to reduce the death and disease caused by tobacco addiction. But it might also be “fool’s gold” that prevents the FDA and others from implementing the tobacco control measures that we know work.
Context matters. In the summer of 2017 when the FDA Commissioner first announced his intention to move forward policy to create a low nicotine product, that announcement was coupled with action to delay full implementation of the FDA deeming rule over all tobacco products. By delaying the rule, the FDA was effectively allowing unregulated e-cigarettes to remain on the market and allowing a new generation of candy-flavored cigars, cigarillos and blunts to be marketed to our nation’s youth. The FDA has not yet taken action on menthol flavorings in cigarettes or taken action to propose new graphic warning labels on cigarette packages.
Process matters. Low nicotine policy, even if well-conceived, is years away. Even under the most optimistic circumstances, it will be several months before the FDA reviews public comments and publishes an actual Notice of Proposed Rule Making. It will be even more time before the FDA reviews and incorporates the public comments to issue a final rule. Once the final rule is out, we anticipate that the tobacco industry will use the courts and Congress to delay implementation of any effective tobacco control policy that might come out of the low nicotine effort.
Action matters. We have effective policy tools to reduce tobacco initiation and encourage tobacco cessation.
“The FDA has already put some of these policy tools to good use; the Real Cost, This Free Life and Every Try Counts campaigns are excellent examples of targeted and effective counteradvertising initiatives,” said ATS President Marc Moss, MD. ”Still others have not been used: limits on flavorings on cigars and e-cigarettes, removing menthol from cigarettes, limits on advertising, and graphic warning labels.”
He added: “The ATS supports a wide range of state and federal policies that will reduce tobacco use in the U.S. including, smoke free environments, Tobacco 21 laws, increased excise taxes on tobacco products, and expanded access to effective smoking cessation programs.”