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Groundbreaking Tobacco Endgame Proposal from FDA on Reducing Nicotine in Cigarettes

Groundbreaking Tobacco Endgame Proposal from FDA on Reducing Nicotine in Cigarettes
ASH Welcomes Biden Administration’s Announcement on Reducing Nicotine

WASHINGTON, DC – June 22, 2022 – Action on Smoking and Health (ASH) applauds President Biden and FDA Commissioner Califf for beginning the process to reduce nicotine in cigarettes to non-addictive levels. Cigarettes are still killing nearly half a million Americans each year, by far the leading cause of preventable death. We have lived with these deaths for decades, but we don’t have to. Reducing nicotine is the right thing to do.

“Whoever controls the nicotine wins,” said ASH Board Chair Doug Blanke. “If the FDA acts boldly, lowering nicotine to non-addictive levels could be the beginning of the end of the most deadly products in history.”

Read the FDA’s announcement here>

We’ve known of the deadly effects of cigarettes for over 70 years. While we’ve made progress in reducing prevalence, in absolute terms the global tobacco epidemic is worse than ever.

“When I became involved in tobacco control over 20 years ago, five million people were dying per year globally,” says ASH Executive Director Laurent Huber. “Today that figure is eight million, and it’s still going up.”

One of the chief barriers to greater progress in addressing tobacco is also the greatest success of tobacco industry manipulation – convincing the world that the problem is the people who smoke, not the industry that makes the product. This argument does not stand up to scrutiny.

Nicotine is an extremely addictive chemical, comparable to heroin or cocaine. It is found naturally in tobacco leaf, but over the years the tobacco industry has discovered ways to increase its addictiveness. As a U.S. Surgeon General Report in 2014 said, cigarettes today are MUCH more dangerous than the cigarettes smoked in the 1960s.

The fact that people know cigarettes are addictive does not let Big Tobacco off the hook. When they look for “replacement smokers,” (their words) they target children. We don’t let a 13-year-old get married, sign a contract, drive a car, or vote. We cannot expect them to make a rational decision about a lifetime of addiction. The vast majority of people who smoke started when they were minors. They entered adulthood already addicted. They never gave consent, implied or otherwise. This conclusion is reinforced by much research showing that at least 2/3 of people who smoke would like to quit, wish they had never started, and are desperate that their children never start. As a society, we failed our children by allowing the tobacco industry to prey on them.

In internal documents, the tobacco industry often refers to itself as the nicotine industry. An addiction-based business model is unethical, even if cigarettes didn’t kill when used as intended. A large majority of people who smoke say they would finally be able to quit if the nicotine addiction was removed. Perhaps more importantly, children who experiment will not get addicted to begin with.

Lowering nicotine in cigarettes has the potential to be one of the most effective public health policies in history. The deaths of millions could be averted, and the staggering financial cost of tobacco – about $1000 a year for every American, could be redirected to improve lives in other ways.

ASH encourages the FDA to act swiftly and with direct action to reduce nicotine to non-addictive levels.

Media Contact:
Megan (Arendt) Manning
(202) 390 – 9513


About Action on Smoking & Health (ASH)
Founded in 1967, Action on Smoking and Health (ASH) is America’s oldest anti-tobacco organization, dedicated to a world with ZERO tobacco deaths. Because tobacco is the leading cause of preventable death worldwide, ASH supports bold solutions proportionate to the magnitude of the problem. https://ash.org.