Study links rising USA e-cigarette use to rise in smokers quitting

Credit Joel Saget Getty Images

Credit Joel Saget Getty Images

The Food and Drug Administration announced Friday that it wants to lower the nicotine levels in cigarettes to "non-addictive" levels.

Emphasizing the importance of a concerted effort, Gottlieb said that "addressing the addictive levels of nicotine in combustible cigarettes must be part of the FDA's strategy for addressing the devastating, addiction crisis that is threatening American families".

More than R200bn was wiped off the value of British American Tobacco (BAT) shares at one point on Friday after USA regulators signalled their plan to cut nicotine in cigarettes to non-addictive levels.

FDA commissioner Scott Gottlieb said in a speech that "we need to envision a world where cigarettes lose their addictive potential through nicotine levels".

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The FDA must maintain a suitable balance between regulating and motivating the development of less risky innovative tobacco products when compared with cigarettes.

"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 agency wrote in its announcement. Additionally, the agency plans to examine actions to increase access and use of FDA-approved medicinal nicotine products, and work with sponsors to consider what steps can be taken under the safety and efficacy standard for products meant to help smokers quit.

The statement by the FDA largely came as a surprise and will likely face much resistance from tobacco companies, which are already facing a declining consumer base for their products. Just last week, the FDA announced a new comprehensive regulatory plan to take on another major issue that concerns the health of all Americans: cigarette smoking.

The agency will also review its position on premium cigars, reopening a discussion on special regulations for these cigars, he said. Specifically, the FDA postponed the requirement that such products be approved by the agency.

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For more on smoking's harms, visit the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.

Analysts said they expect regulators in Europe to study similar actions on nicotine products.

People who quit smoking are exposed to a lower risk of illness than smokers who continue to smoke, regardless of the type of cigarette they smoke.

British American Tobacco shares, trading close to all-time highs, fell 6.8 percent to post their biggest one-day loss in nine 9 years.

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