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Tobacco stocks crushed as FDA targets nicotine in cigarettes
March 22 2018, 07:53 | Alonzo Simpson
Pascal Le Segretain | Getty Images
British American Tobacco was crushed 12% and Imperial Brands by 9% late on Friday after the US Food and Drugs Administration said it aimed to lower nicotine levels in cigarettes to non-addictive levels.
Tobacco companies, such as British American Tobacco (BAT), said the announcement will lead to innovation in the industry. The FDA has had the power since 2009 to regulate nicotine levels but hasn't done so.
Nicotine isn't the only cause of the diseases that come from smoking, but it is the chemical that hooks users because of the effects that it has on the brain.
FDA claimed nicotine is most harmful when delivered through smoke particles in combustible cigarettes and that less harmful products like e-cigarettes should be explored.
The move means FDA Commissioner Scott Gottlieb has sided at least partially with e-cigarettes in the debate over whether they potentially hold some public health benefits, though he signalled an intention to curtail kid-friendly flavoured products.
The FDA's shift comes as the agency considers whether to approve new marketing claims for new heat-not-burn devices, smokeless tobacco and other products.
E-cigarettes and vaping devices that were on the market in August 2016 won't be subject to review until 2021 or 2022, depending on the type of product.
"It was an enormous mistake to continue to allow flavored e-cigarettes and flavored cigars to remain on the market", says the organization's president Matthew Myers.
Altria Group, which sells Marlboro and other cigarettes in the USA, said it would be "fully engaged" in FDA's rule-making process.
Altria, the parent of Philip Morris USA, responded to the talk of targeting nicotine by saying in a statement that new rules must be "based on science and evidence, must not lead to unintended consequences and must be technically achievable".
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