FDA pursuing lower levels of nicotine in cigarettes

Tobacco stocks crushed as FDA targets nicotine in cigarettes

"It's taken a little while, but it seems the FDA is beginning to realize something the scientific community woke up to years ago: policies aimed at destroying the e-cigarette market actually would result in the unintended effect of more smokers sticking with traditional combustible cigarettes". Cigarette smoke, he said, not nicotine, is what causes cancer, heart disease and lung disease.

Marlboro maker Altria Group Inc. fell 10%, while British American Tobacco PLC, maker of Camel cigarettes, tumbled 8.5%.

(Gottlieb) "We need to envision a world where cigarettes lose their addictive potential through reduced nicotine levels". They also demanded that companies submit more information about the ingredients in e-cigarettes and cigars.

"While there's still much research to be done on these products and the risks that they may pose, they may also present benefits that we must consider", Gottlieb said. The FDA has had the power since 2009 to regulate nicotine levels but hasn't done so.

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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After the FDA announcement, British American Tobacco shares, trading close to all-time highs, dipped as much as 11% and were on track for their biggest one-day loss in almost 18 years, according to a new Reuters report.

"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.

British American, which owns Reynolds American, said it was "encouraged" by the FDA's comments and the effort to reduce nicotine "do not come as a surprise to us".

Disclosure: Gottlieb and Zeller are employed by the FDA. Nearly 90% of adult smokers started smoking before the age of 18 and 2,500 youths have their first cigarette every day, the agency said.