The Rutgers School of Public Health Center for Tobacco Studies (CTS) has urged the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to extend the proposed low nicotine standard for cigarettes to filtered cigars in a recent commentary published in the journal Tobacco Control and subsequent letter to the FDA.
Clinical trials show that lowering the level of nicotine in cigarettes can reduce dependence and promote smoking cessation even among vulnerable populations. As recently as this year, the FDA issued an advanced notice of proposed rulemaking on lowering the nicotine level in cigarettes to make them less addictive. However, the FDA acknowledges that while reducing the nicotine content in cigarettes is a viable first step, smokers may turn to other combustible tobacco products to maintain their nicotine addiction, reducing the public health impact of the proposed low nicotine standard.
In a recent commentary, CTS recommended that the FDA should consider extending a low-nicotine standard to other combustible tobacco products that are likely to be used as substitutes for cigarettes. Dr. Cristine Delnevo, CTS Director, and her colleagues, specifically highlight the need for little and filtered cigars to be included in any proposed product standard that sets a maximum allowable nicotine level.
Dr. Delnevo’s research has shown how little and filtered cigars meet the legal definition of cigarettes – and because of their common characteristics like shape, size, and ventilation filters, cigarette smokers use them as inexpensive cigarette substitutes. However, little and filtered cigars have for decades been able to circumvent rules and regulations applied to traditional cigarettes and remain a cheaper and more appealing alternative to cigarettes, especially in vulnerable populations.
“The low nicotine standard needs to be applied to other combustible tobacco products that serve as cigarette substitutes like little and filtered cigars, to have an impact on public health,” comments Dr. Delnevo. “Excluding cigarette substitutes will allow the tobacco industry to continue to exploit policy loopholes, compromising the intent and public health impact of the low nicotine standard.”