The US Food and Drug Administration's proposal to strip cigarettes of their addictive properties has added an international dimension to the fight against smoking, with health authorities in at least four other countries studying the idea.
After FDA commissioner Scott Gottlieb suggested drastic cuts to nicotine levels, public-health experts in New Zealand last week came out with an action plan recommending such reductions within five years.
According authorities in Canada and Finland, they were considering regulating amounts of the drug in tobacco products, while officials in the UK's Department of Health have discussed the US proposal with FDA representatives, Reuters reported citing a person familiar with the matter.
The FDA has ''massively raised the attention on reduced-nicotine cigarettes for regulators across the world,'' Clive Bates, the report quoted a public health consultant as saying over the phone. The move provides ''tremendous impetus'' to the concept of nicotine limits despite the policy's flaws, which include the likelihood that it would create a black market for standard cigarettes, he said.
According to commentators, the proactive stance by the FDA could embolden authorities outside the US to step up the war on nicotine, undermining tobacco companies' prospects in developing countries, where they seek to expand as smoking rates fall in the wealthy world.
Meanwhile, Gottlieb said in a news release about the FDA's first attempt at targeting use of e-cigarettes and similar products by youth:
"Educating youth about the dangers of tobacco products has been a cornerstone of our efforts to reduce the harms caused by these products. Including e-cigarettes and other [similar] products in our prevention work not only makes sense, it reflects the troubling reality that they are the most commonly used tobacco product among youth".
"While we pursue a policy that focuses on addressing the role that nicotine plays in keeping smokers addicted to combustible cigarettes, and to help move those who cannot quit nicotine altogether onto less harmful products, we will also continue to work vigorously to keep all tobacco products out of the hands of kids."