The U.S. Food and Drug Administration announced Friday a new plan to lower the amount of nicotine in cigarettes.
The FDA reports that tobacco is responsible for more than 480,000 deaths in the U.S. every year. A large amount of those deaths are caused by addiction, and the goal of the new regulation is to lower the amount of nicotine to nonaddictive levels.
The federal agency reports that almost 90 percent of adult smokers started smoking before the age of 18.
Experts have argued for this sort of strategy since 1994. Scientific advancements and stronger regulatory bodies have made it a more feasible idea in recent years.
The FDA also wants to encourage alternative nicotine products — like nicotine gum, skin patches and electronic cigarettes — which might be safer than cigarettes. Along with the new nicotine regulation, the agency pushed back a deadline for products like e-cigarettes and vape pens to comply with FDA rules.
Back in 2016, the FDA finalized the "Deeming Rule." It gave the agency the ability to regulate electronic cigarettes — as well as hookahs and e-liquids — the same way it regulates combustible cigarettes. The new regulations required warning labels for the tobacco products and prohibited sales to minors. The original deadline to comply with these new regulations was 2018, but Friday's announcement pushed the date to 2022.
E-cigarette advocates, like Sen. Ron Johnson, supported the decision to push back compliance deadlines. But groups such as the American Lung Association and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention have pushed for stronger regulation.
The FDA's plans came as a surprise to some tobacco groups and market analysts. Experts say the move could increase pressure on tobacco manufacturers to develop less-harmful products.