FDA Nicotine Reduction Plan Announced Today Has Promise, But Timeline Puts Young Lives at Risk
We applaud U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) Commissioner Scott Gottlieb for his plan to reduce death and disease by moving forward with a comprehensive policy toward nicotine. We concur with his conclusion that reducing the addictiveness and appeal of combustible tobacco products, such as cigarettes, is a cornerstone of protecting the public health. We also agree that protecting kids from all nicotine products is a priority.
However, the timeline presented by the agency is far too long. We have long-supported a harm-minimization policy, where properly regulated non-combustible products have a path to market that will help smokers completely switch from the most deadly, combustible products to the least-harmful products. That needs to happen sooner, rather than later.
The four-year delay in fully regulating newly deemed combustible products will leave tens of millions of youth and young adults subject to the enticing flavors and marketing of little cigars, cigarillos and hookah. The five-year delay in regulating e-cigarettes and other non-combustible nicotine-based tobacco products will maintain confusion among smokers about the quality and safety of devices while leaving products and flavors marketed to kids on the market. While the FDA has promised to mitigate these risks through product standards, we have yet to see any concrete proposals.
We have consistently supported a ban on menthol and other flavors in cigarettes and other combustible tobacco products and are disappointed that the FDA is merely requesting more information about flavors, including menthol in cigarettes. The FDA requested information on this issue four years ago and conducted research regarding menthol, but has yet to act. The evidence is clear: removing menthol from cigarettes will improve public health, and the ongoing delay of enacting a menthol ban is discouraging for the other efforts being made to protect the public health, such as nicotine reduction in combustible tobacco products.
Ultimately, while we are strongly supportive of the goals set forth by Commissioner Gottlieb today, our optimism is tempered by the ongoing delays in implementing measures that will have an impact on the death and disease caused by tobacco. As Commissioner Gottlieb noted today, thousands of lives are on the line every day. The time for action is now, not years down the road.