R Street Harm Reduction Policy Director Carrie Wade noted that this should be considered an important first step to reorient FDA regulation of tobacco products from a process created to protect the sales and profits of the major cigarette makers to one created to reduce tobacco-related addiction, illness and death.
The FDA hopes to make smoking non-addictive, according to a new regulatory plan announced July 28.
The FDA's official media release specifically mentions that the agency plans on developing product standards to "protect against known public health risks, such as electronic nicotine delivery systems (ENDS) battery issues and concerns about children's exposure to liquid nicotine".
"[An] overwhelming amount of death and disease attributable to tobacco is caused by addiction to cigarettes-the only legal consumer product that, when used as intended, will kill half of all long-term users", Scott Gottlieb, FDA Commissioner, said in a statement.
For e-cigarettes, the agency extended the deadline by up to four years, and up to three years for cigar companies, to comply with a 2016 rule that gave the FDA oversight over the products, giving them more time on the market without regulation.
While the FDA's effort is likely to be heavily opposed by cigarette makers such as Altria Group Inc. and British American Tobacco Plc, the move by the agency is aimed at one of the US's biggest causes of preventable illness that the FDA says is responsible for 480,000 deaths a year as well as hundreds of billions of dollars in medical costs and lost productivity. It also costs society financially, with direct health care and lost productivity costs totaling almost $300 billion a year.
The smoking rate in the U.S.is falling. Marketing applications for non-combustible products, like e-cigs, must be filed by August 8, 2022. Citigroup analyst Adam Spielman said he didn't believe the FDA will be able to lower nicotine to nonaddictive levels because defining that level will be difficult, it would be hard to make cigarettes with a very low level of nicotine and there would be huge political opposition. 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. However, the tobacco industry is already experiencing the blow on the stock market.