FDA Announces Plans for Radical Overhaul of US Tobacco Control Policies, Possible de facto Bans on Nicotine and Menthol

From: FDA Center for Tobacco Products

FDA announces comprehensive regulatory plan to shift trajectory of tobacco-related disease, death
Agency to pursue lowering nicotine in cigarettes to non-addictive levels and create more predictability in tobacco regulation


The FDA plans to begin a public dialogue about lowering nicotine levels in combustible cigarettes to non-addictive levels through achievable product standards. The agency intends to issue an Advance Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (ANPRM) to seek input on the potential public health benefits and any possible adverse effects of lowering nicotine in cigarettes. Because almost 90 percent of adult smokers started smoking before the age of 18 and nearly 2,500 youth smoke their first cigarette every day in the U.S., lowering nicotine levels could decrease the likelihood that future generations become addicted to cigarettes and allow more currently addicted smokers to quit.

The agency plans to issue this guidance describing a new enforcement policy shortly. Under expected revised timelines, applications for newly-regulated combustible products, such as cigars, pipe tobacco and hookah tobacco, would be submitted by Aug. 8, 2021, and applications for non-combustible products such as ENDS or e-cigarettes would be submitted by Aug. 8, 2022. Additionally, the FDA expects that manufacturers would continue to market products while the agency reviews product applications.


In order to further explore how best to protect public health in the evolving tobacco marketplace, the agency also will seek input from the public on a variety of significant topics, including approaches to regulating kid-appealing flavors in e-cigarettes and cigars. In particular, the FDA intends to issue ANPRMs to: 1) seek public comment on the role that flavors (including menthol) in tobacco products play in attracting youth and may play in helping some smokers switch to potentially less harmful forms of nicotine delivery; and 2) solicit additional comments and scientific data related to the patterns of use and resulting public health impacts from premium cigars, which were included in the FDA’s 2016 rule. Additionally, the agency plans to examine actions to increase access and use of FDA-approved medicinal nicotine products, and work with sponsors to consider what steps can be taken under the safety and efficacy standard for products intended to help smokers quit.


To complement these larger policy considerations, the FDA plans to issue foundational rules to make the product review process more efficient, predictable, and transparent for manufacturers, while upholding the agency’s public health mission. Among other things, the FDA intends to issue regulations outlining what information the agency expects to be included in Premarket Tobacco Applications (PMTAs), Modified Risk Tobacco Product (MRTP) applications and reports to demonstrate Substantial Equivalence (SE). The FDA also plans to finalize guidance on how it intends to review PMTAs for ENDS. The agency also will continue efforts to assist industry in complying with federal tobacco regulations through online information, meetings, webinars and guidance documents.

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