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Gottlieb noted that although a potential nicotine product standard is at the forefront of the FDA's approach, the FDA is also moving forward with other aspects of its tobacco and nicotine regulation plan, including better protection for children against the marketing of tobacco products, seeking comment on the role of flavors in the initiation, use and cessation of tobacco products, and modernizing the development of medicinal nicotine replacement products.

Today, the FDA issued an advanced notice of proposed rulemaking to lower nicotine in combustible cigarettes to minimally or nonaddictive levels.

Tobacco executives from Altria and R.J. Reynolds expressed interest in the FDA proposal and vowed to work closely with the agency on what is expected to be a process lasting several years. That FDA-funded analysis found that slashing nicotine levels could push the smoking rate down to 1.4 percent from the current 15 percent of adults.

The Food and Drug Administration plans to try to lower the amount of nicotine in cigarettes to make them less addictive - an unprecedented move by the agency.

A study released Thursday in the New England Journal of Medicine projected that cutting nicotine to a non-addictive level could mean five million fewer smokers in the first year of implementation.

"We believe the public health benefits and the potential to save millions of lives, both in the near and long term, support this effort", Gottlieb said.

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"Tobacco use also costs almost $300 billion a year in direct health care and lost productivity".

The evaluation was based on reducing nicotine levels to 0.4 milligrams per gram of tobacco filler, FDA officials told reporters during a teleconference.

Thursday's action follows Gottlieb's announcement last summer that the agency would pursue a comprehensive plan on tobacco and nicotine regulation in an effort to avert millions of tobacco-related deaths.

FDA Commissioner Scott Gottlieb announced the change in a statement. For instance, will smokers turn to illicitly imported products, or simply smoke more cigarettes? "In order to successfully address cigarette addiction, we must make it possible for current adult smokers who still seek nicotine to get it from alternative and less harmful sources".

Matthew Myers, president of Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids, warned of the dangers of taking it too slow.

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