The plans also push back deadlines by which e-cigarette manufacturers have to provide information on current and future products to gain FDA approval, shifting it from 2018 to 2022.
This is the first time the administration will attempt to regulate nicotine levels. The agency said it plans to issue "guidance describing a new enforcement policy shortly" and then seek public comment on the new standards.
Gottlieb also held out the possibility that premium cigars would be exempted from FDA oversight, but the overall outlook for traditional tobacco products appeared grim.
The new enforcement policy does not affect provisions of the regulatory rule that are already in place, such as mandatory age and photo-ID checks for e-cigarettes and other newly regulated tobacco products. However, that law has not been used in any significant manner since it was signed until now. Tobacco use is the leading cause of preventable heart disease, cancer and death in the United States, causing more than 480,000 deaths annually. Nearly 90% of adult smokers started smoking before the age of 18 and 2,500 youths have their first cigarette every day, the agency said.
The second application, filed in March, is the prerequisite to sell the product in the U.S. The FDA's response to that application could come as soon as this year.
"The Lung Association is concerned", said Erika Sward, the association's vice president for national advocacy. And the FDA says, OK, we're going to go forward with regulations like banning sales to kids and forcing the e-cigarette makers to reveal the ingredients in these devices.
Cigarettes still make up the vast majority of tobacco-company revenue.
"Nicotine addiction is the driving factor determining who will become lifelong smokers", Spangler said. But he worries it may stall.
A spokesperson for a tobacco company, Imperial Brands, told The Wall Street Journal that it was too soon to tell how cigarette makers would be affected.
Dr. John Spangler, a professor of family and community medicine at Wake Forest Baptist Medical Center, said very low nicotine cigarettes may help prevent some youths from becoming addicted to tobacco. Donny and other researchers found that reducing nicotine substantially - by around 90 percent - leads to smokers being less dependent on cigarettes and smoking fewer of them.
Just down the road, from Island Dyes, 804 Tobacco, says the change in cigarettes, might not be a bad thing in the long run. While some "vape" recreationally, others report using electronic cigarettes to successfully wean themselves off of nicotine and, eventually, off smoking altogether.
Although Altria's stock plunged following the announcement, the company released a statement Friday commending the FDA for outlining a position that allows all stakeholders the opportunity to participate in discussions about a necessary regulatory framework. "Yes, we need to ask some tough questions about the benefits and potential risks of any new technology, but these questions should be asked through re-framing".
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