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CDC says eight in ten US adults support limiting nicotine in cigarettes as FDA preps new rules

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An overwhelming majority of U.S. adults favor proposals requiring tobacco companies to cut nicotine in cigarettes to make them less addictive, according to a new report by the Centers of Disease Control and Prevention.

The study comes as the Food and Drug Administration writes new rules that would set maximum nicotine limits for cigarettes to minimally addictive levels as the agency looks to reduce the number of U.S. smokers.

More than 80% of adults strongly favored or somewhat agreed that tobacco companies should be forced to lower the amount of nicotine in cigarettes, while about 10% somewhat opposed and nearly 9% strongly opposed the proposal, according to the report published Thursday. 

About eight in ten adult smokers and 84.3% of former smokers favored the idea, the data showed.

The authors of the report noted that various studies conducted from 2010 through 2015 showed that 47% to 71% of adults favored limiting nicotine in cigarettes, meaning support for the idea of limiting nicotine in tobacco products is now rising.

“Cigarettes and other combustible tobacco products are responsible for the overwhelming burden of death and disease from tobacco use in the United States,” Dr. Corinne Graffunder, director of the CDC’s Office on Smoking and Health, said in a statement. “Lowering nicotine levels in cigarettes could help current smokers quit and make it less likely for future generations to become addicted to these products.”

Smoking is responsible for about 480,000 deaths every year, the CDC said.

The study’s data was collected from an online survey of more than 4,000 U.S. adults who were 18 years or older. The authors of the report said the data can help the FDA’s regulatory efforts as the agency plans to roll out its maximum nicotine proposal.

study in the New England Journal of Medicine highlighted by the CDC found that reducing nicotine in cigarettes would stop approximately 33 million people from smoking and curb 8.5 million smoking-related deaths within the century. Tobacco companies’ profits would also take a hard hit, it found.

Analysts at Morgan Stanley said the rule could cut profits in half for cigarette manufacturers, costing the industry roughly $165 billion if it’s adopted within the next 15 years. The analysts said the proposal could be a “potential game changer” for the tobacco industry.

“We don’t believe a smoker will continue to purchase nonaddictive cigarettes, particularly with the presence of alternative nicotine delivery devices,” such as e-cigarettes, the analysts wrote in June.