“We’ve opened up a pathway to new product innovations that we think can potentially provide nicotine to people who still want to enjoy satisfying levels of nicotine,” said Dr. Scott Gottlieb in an interview on CNBC last Thursday.
Last month the FDA announced a new comprehensive plan for tobacco and nicotine regulation, under which the much disputed PreMarket Tobacco Applications (PMTA), was delayed until 2022. This move is granting manufacturers the opportunity to innovate and hence ensure that consumers have access to safer alternatives.
“We’ve set out a plan to try to reduce nicotine levels to non addictive or minimally addictive levels to transition people off combustible cigarettes,” said Gottlieb, whilst pointing out that despite being addictive, nicotine is not the main villain. “It’s not the nicotine that kills you, it’s all the other carcinogens in lighting tobacco on fire,” he said.
Tobacco stocks plummet
Infact Altria’s shares dropped by 19%, in what is considered the biggest drop since 1999, British American Tobacco’s (BAT), stocks fell by as much as 14%, and shares for Imperial Brands Plc dropped by 9.5%. “Until the eventual development of specific proposals, it’s too early to understand the practical implications,” said Simon Evans, a spokesperson for Imperial Brands Plc.
Finally putting public health first?
Gottlieb pointed out that smoking rates continue to drop across the US, however approximately 480,000 people continue to die per year due to smoking related conditions. Hence, the FDA aims to review the way low risk products such as e-cigarettes are regulated, so that smokers are able to switch to safer alternatives that could potentially save their life.
Gottlieb added that there are new products on the market that also need to be considered. “Heat not burn. … Also medicinal nicotine products,” he said. “There could be product innovation around those as well to deliver the nicotine in better ways.”
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