The vast majority of Americans support lowering the amount of nicotine in cigarettes, according to a report released Thursday by the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The move could save millions of lives a year, experts say.
“Lowering nicotine levels in cigarettes could help current smokers quit and make it less likely for future generations to become addicted to these products,” said Corinne Graffunder, director of the CDC’s Office on Smoking and Health.
A study published in 2018 found that reduced nicotine levels in cigarettes could save more than 8 million lives over the next century and prevent more than 30 million people from starting to smoke regularly.
More than 80% of US adults favored less nicotine, the new report found, and current smokers were just as likely to support lower levels as those who had never picked up a cigarette. The new report did not address e-cigarettes or tobacco products other than cigarettes.
Researchers surveyed more than 4,000 people across the country and found that older adults — those over age 65 — were most likely to support lower levels of nicotine. Support for the move was slightly higher in women than men, researchers found.
Trump administration considers new rules
The US government has for years mulled lowering nicotine levels in cigarettes. A 2014 report from the Office of the Surgeon General argued that lowering nicotine to non-addictive levels could help eliminate smoking. And last year, the US Food and Drug Administration sought public comments on regulations to do just that.
Former FDA Commissioner Dr. Scott Gottlieb said at the time that new rules to make cigarettes “minimally addictive or non-addictive” could prevent millions of deaths. “[This] unprecedented public health opportunity, contrasted against the cost of doing nothing, weighs heavily on me,” he said.
Public health groups applauded the effort. Matthew Myers, president of the Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids, called the FDA’s move “a bold plan” and said that “there is no other single action our country can take that would prevent more young people from smoking or save more lives.”
More than 40 health and medical organizations, including the American Medical Association and the American Heart Association, wrote a letter supporting the potential regulations and urging the FDA to quickly turn them into law.
“Every day that passes,” the groups wrote, “means more kids moving from experimentation to addiction and more adults who want to quit and try to quit, but remain addicted to a lethal product.”
Having solicited almost 8,000 public comments, the FDA plans to formally propose new nicotine rules this fall.