Arthur J. Villasanta – Fourth Estate Contributor
Silver Spring, MD, United States (4E) – In another tack in its interminable fight against tobacco addiction, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) said it plans to compel tobacco companies to reduce the amount of nicotine allowed in traditional cigarettes with the goal of making these cigarettes “non-addictive.”
This seemingly incongruous announcement caused tobacco company share prices to plummet. Shares of Altria Group (maker of Marlboro); British American Tobacco (the world’s largest tobacco company and maker of Camel and Lucky Strike) and Vector Group (maker of Eve cigarettes), among other tobacco-related stocks, fell on the news.
Altria plummeted 10 percent; British American Tobacco, nine percent and Vector, four percent on July 28.
Analysts said the fall was caused by the realization that non-addictive levels of nicotine stand to further diminish the number of smokers in the USA, depleting tobacco company revenues.
That number has been falling and is at historic lows for adults, teens and children. Only 15 percent of U.S. adults smoke while 11 percent of high school students light-up.
Data shows that over 100 million people died as a result of tobacco smoking in the 20th century while some one billion are expected to die this century if present usage rates go unchecked.
“Unless we change course, 5.6 million young people alive today will die prematurely later in life from tobacco use,” said FDA Commissioner Scott Gottlieb, M.D.
He acknowledged the overwhelming amount of death and disease attributable to tobacco is caused by addiction to cigarettes, which is the only legal consumer product that, when used as intended, will kill half of all long-term users.
The FDA’s new tack seeks to make a bigger dent in these numbers.
“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,” said the FDA.
The FDA noted its new comprehensive plan for tobacco and nicotine regulation will serve as a multi-year roadmap to better protect kids and significantly reduce tobacco-related disease and death. The approach places nicotine, and the issue of addiction, at the center of the agency’s tobacco regulation efforts.
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