The Food and Drug Administration wants to take the nicotine out of cigarettes — or, at least, most of it.
The agency announced Friday a goal of lowering nicotine in traditional cigarettes to a non-addictive level, and ensuring that alternative nicotine delivery systems — read: electronic cigarettes — are properly and sensibly regulated.
“We may be able to reach a day where the most harmful products are no longer capable of addicting our kids,” said Dr. Scott Gottlieb, the agency’s commissioner, in a Friday announcement, where he laid out an intention to focus the agency on reducing the harm nicotine causes society.
Gottlieb said the agency will be seeking public input on how to best achieve this goal and address potential hurdles, such as the possibility that reducing the amount of nicotine in legitimate cigarettes sparks the creation of a black market for more harmful versions.
He also stressed the need to properly regulate products like electronic cigarettes, which can deliver nicotine without the harmful compounds found in tobacco smoke. In August 2016, the FDA started exercising authority over electronic cigarettes, declaring it illegal for the products to be marketed to minors. They also demanded that companies submit more information about the ingredients in e-cigarettes and cigars.
This came under harsh critique from the industry, and the FDA postponed a May 10 deadline for compliance by 3 months. On Friday, Gottlieb indicated that deadline may move further back.
Gottlieb also stressed that, while e-cigarette companies should have more time to come into compliance with the FDA’s regulations, the products should never find their way into the hands and mouths of children.
“We will redouble our efforts to protect kids from all nicotine-containing products,” Gottlieb said. “Kids shouldn’t be using any form of these products.”
Gottlieb specifically called out the industry for using kid-friendly favors to lure minors, and also raised the possibility of banning flavors, such as menthol, in regular cigarettes.