Tobacco stocks crushed as FDA targets nicotine in cigarettes

The US Food and Drug Administration said that it aims to reduce nicotine levels in cigarettes but also encourage smokers to shift towards e-cigarettes as part of a major new regulatory programme.

"Nicotine itself is not responsible for the cancer, the lung disease and heart disease that kill hundreds of thousands of Americans each year", he said. "We are well prepared and look forward to participating in a thorough process to develop a comprehensive plan for tobacco and nicotine regulation".

The agency says "a key piece of the FDA's approach is demonstrating a greater awareness that nicotine-while highly addictive-is delivered through products that represent a continuum of risk and is most harmful when delivered through smoke particles in combustible cigarettes".

"The staggering measure of death and illness inferable from tobacco is caused by dependence on cigarettes -", FDA Commissioner Scott Gottlieb said in an announcement declaring the move.

But he added that the extension of e-cigarette deadlines "will allow egregious, kid-friendly e-cigarettes and cigars, in flavors like gummy bear, cherry crush and banana smash, to stay on the market with little public health oversight".

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"The FDA intends to start an open discourse about bringing down nicotine levels in ignitable cigarettes to non-addictive levels through achievable item models", the organization said in the declaration.

The agency also announced plans to delay a policy that requires makers of e-cigarettes, or electronic nicotine delivery systems (ENDS), to get agency approval for their products.

It is estimated that 36.5 million people in this country are cigarette smokers.

More than 480,000 deaths occur each year in the US from smoking-related illnesses. Tobacco kills more than 480,000 people a year in the United States and costs society nearly $300 billion annually in medical costs and lost productivity.

The moves came amid furious lobbying by the e-cigarette industry to roll back FDA regulations, issued a year ago, that require companies to submit to a rigorous approval process for products marketed after February 15, 2007. However, the tobacco industry is already experiencing the blow on the stock market.