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WASHINGTON — When the Food and Drug Administration said Tuesday it would eventually lower the level of tobacco in cigarettes to non-addictive levels, the American Heart Association called it “historic.” Powerful lawmakers applauded the action. The New York Times put the announcement on its front page — writing that the move “would put the United States at the forefront of global antismoking efforts.”

And while lowering nicotine levels in cigarettes would be a massive deal, the FDA this week only took a first, very small step, toward that goal. And it has even taken that small step before, though to far less fanfare.


It didn’t actually release a formal proposal for lowering nicotine levels: It just pledged to work on a rule and eventually propose it. The hubbub was caused by an update to the Unified Agenda — a semi-annual report listing every regulation an agency intends to publish in the coming years. This year’s list included more than 2,000 rules across the federal government, one of which touched on nicotine levels. The FDA said it would put it out by next May.

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