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Less is more when it comes to the FDA’s game-changing nicotine reduction plan

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The FDA’s bold nicotine reduction plan has the potential to be a significant and momentous game-changer if implemented properly and quickly. This proposed action on nicotine goes to the heart of the tobacco epidemic and addresses it at its core — dismantling a deadly product that has been engineered to be more addictive. We applaud the FDA’s efforts and are optimistic that it will go a long way toward achieving a culture where youth and young adults reject tobacco. However, to achieve its intended purpose, we strongly believe that any future regulation must apply the nicotine reduction plan to ALL combustible tobacco products including cigars, little cigars, cigarillos and loose tobacco that can be used in roll-your-own cigarettes.

The FDA’s research, published today in the New England Journal of Medicine, shows that if the FDA plan were implemented, approximately 5 million additional adult smokers could quit smoking within one year of implementation and smoking rates could drop from the current 15 percent to as low as 1.4 percent by 2060. This would be a turning point in ending the tobacco epidemic.

We are also encouraged that FDA Commissioner Scott Gottlieb announced that he plans to take vigorous enforcement steps to make sure that no tobacco products are marketed to kids, including e-cigarettes. Nicotine in any form has a negative impact on developing brains continuing through early adulthood and risks teen and young adult susceptibility to other addictions. We urge the FDA to go even further and rapidly address this through full implementation of the deeming rule. Attention to all nicotine use among youth is vital given the continued rise in youth e-cigarette use — most notably with products such as JUUL which have gained adoption at alarming rates by young people, and evidence from the National Academy of Sciences which shows a relationship between e-cigarette and combustible tobacco use.

As the FDA has acknowledged, a comprehensive approach to nicotine will require more than just reducing nicotine to non-addictive levels in combustible tobacco. It is also essential that the FDA rapidly ban menthol cigarettes and other flavored products that promote youth tobacco use. The FDA must also move swiftly to fulfill its obligation to implement graphic health warnings.

We also eagerly await the tobacco industry’s response to the FDA’s bold announcement today. If tobacco companies truly desire a “smoke-free world,” they should robustly support this game-changing proposal, instead of the standard tactics of opposition, litigation and delay.

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