Nicotine will now be at the center of the Food and Drug Administration's effort to regulate tobacco, the agency said, announcing that it will aim to lower the amount of nicotine in cigarettes to a level that will help curb addiction.
It would be the first time in the agency's history that it has sought to regulate the amount of nicotine in cigarettes.
"The overwhelming amount of death and disease attributable to tobacco is caused by addiction to cigarettes — the only legal consumer product that, when used as intended, will kill half of all long-term users," FDA Commissioner Scott Gottlieb said Friday. "Unless we change course, 5.6 million young people alive today will die prematurely later in life from tobacco use."
The plan had an immediate effect on the stock market.
"It's a real blow to big tobacco, there's no question about that," NPR's Rob Stein said on Morning Edition, "and tobacco stocks have already started to fall" after Friday's announcement.
As for newer nicotine-delivery systems such as vaping and electronic cigarettes, the FDA says that makers of those and other newly regulated products will be given more time to submit them for review.
Under the new timeline, the FDA said, makes of cigars, pipe tobacco and hookah tobacco would have until Aug. 8, 2021, to submit applications.
The agency said it also will hold public comment sessions on how to regulate "kid-appealing flavors" that are often added to e-cigarettes and cigars.
"Tobacco use remains the leading cause of preventable disease and death in the United States, causing more than 480,000 deaths every single year," the FDA said in announcing the plan. The agency added that the toll also has a monetary cost, with "direct health care and lost productivity costs totaling nearly $300 billion a year."