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The Biden administration plans to propose a rule to establish a maximum nicotine level in cigarettes and other finished tobacco products in an attempt to make them less addictive, the White House Budget Office said Tuesday, and cigarette makers responded that there were better ways to cut smoking harm.
The rule, expected in May 2023, would be designed with the goal of making it easier for tobacco users to quit and help prevent youth from becoming regular smokers, according to a document released by the White House Budget Office.
The proposal comes as the Biden administration doubles down on fighting cancer-related deaths.
Earlier this year, the government announced plans to reduce the death rate from cancer by at least 50% over the next 25 years.
Major tobacco companies, however, said "tobacco harm reduction", or pushing smokers to perceived reduced-risk products such as e-cigarettes, would be more helpful than reducing nicotine levels in traditional cigarettes.
"Tobacco harm reduction is the best way forward to reduce the health impacts of smoking," said Dr. Aaron Williams, senior vice president, scientific and regulatory affairs at RAI Services Co, the firm in charge of regulatory compliance for R. J. Reynolds Tobacco Co.
Marlboro-maker Altria Group Inc MO.N said the government's focus should be less on taking products away from adult smokers and "more on providing them... reduced harm FDA-authorized smoke-free products".
Both Altria and British American Tobacco BATS.L, the parent company of Reynolds, have stakes in the U.S. e-cigarette market.
Cigarette smoking and exposure to tobacco smoke cause about 480,000 premature deaths each year in the United States, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Health experts have long said it is the largest cause of preventable deaths.
Analysts say it will likely be many years before the implementation of a rule to limit nicotine levels due to likely legal challenges from big tobacco companies and the need to assess the risk of people smoking more with lower nicotine levels per cigarette.
"We think post proposed rule, you won't see implementation for at least 5 years, and likely more towards 10 years," Jefferies analysts wrote in a note- Reuters