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FDA Wants to Lower Amount of Nicotine in Cigarettes

In a bid to make cigarettes less addictive, the Food and Drug Administration announced on Friday it would lower the amount of nicotine allowed in cigarettes.

Meanwhile, the FDA is extending deadlines for the makers of other tobacco products—including e-cigarettes, hookahs, and cigars—to submit applications to the agency to review. The FDA created the original deadlines only last year, when it extended its authority to regulate all tobacco products (before, it only covered cigarettes, smokeless tobacco, and self-rolled tobacco). The FDA now says it wants more "time to explore clear and meaningful measures to make tobacco products less toxic, appealing and addictive."

The agency laid out its philosophy in a press release on Friday: It says it wants to strike "an appropriate balance between regulation and encouraging development of innovative tobacco products that may be less dangerous than cigarettes." This stance means the FDA is taking a side in a hot debate in public health right now over what to do about new tobacco products, such as vaping pens, that have become popular in recent years. Some argue for strict regulation, with an eye toward keeping teenagers from getting addicted, while others want to see e-cigarettes remain available as a less-dangerous—though exactly how much less dangerous remains to be seen—alternative to combustible cigarettes for those who just can't quit.

The FDA has not yet said when it will open up public comment on the announcement.