Tobacco stocks slid Friday following the release of a Food and Drug Administration plan to curb tobacco-related disease and death by reducing nicotine levels in smoking products.
An outlier in its industry Friday, Philip Morris Int'l (PM) stock gained just slightly to close up 0.27%, a move Wells Fargo analyst Bonnie Herzog said is due to its position in the smokeless tobacco iQOS product industry, according to MarketWatch.
The FDA said it plans to "begin a public dialogue" about lowering nicotine to non-addictive levels. The goal is to keep children from becoming addicted at an early age, as almost 90% of adult smokers started before their 18th birthday. The FDA also plans to seek public input on how to end the use of flavored tobacco products that appeal directly to young kids.
A key part of the FDA's approach is to demonstrate that nicotine is delivered on a "continuum" of products with increasing risk. The most harmful means of delivery is cigarettes, which are "the only legal consumer product that, when used as intended, will kill half of all long-term users," the FDA said.
It's worth noting that the FDA is focused on reducing the addictive aspect of cigarettes with nicotine-focused regulation. Nicotine doesn't cause cancer, but the tar and chemicals in smoking products like cigarettes do.
Tobacco use is the leading cause of preventable death in the U.S., taking 480,000 lives each year. It's also highly costly to society, triggering a $300 billion loss in direct healthcare and productivity costs yearly, according to the FDA.
An estimated 15% or 36.5 million Americans over the age of 18 smoke cigarettes, and more than 16 million of them live with a smoking-related disease, the CDC said.
The FDA's plan is for a world "where cigarettes would no longer create or sustain an addiction, and where adults who still need or want nicotine could get it from alternative and less harmful sources." That means big tobacco firms could have to change their business to cater to new combustible and non-combustible product standards.
The FDA will release guidelines for what will be considered acceptable nicotine levels soon, and it expects a deadline of August 8, 2021 for combustible products and August 8, 2022 for non-combustible products to submit product reviews under those new guidelines.
Stock of 22nd Century Group Inc (XXII) , a plant biotech company that focuses on altering the levels of nicotine and other nicotinic alkaloids in tobacco plants, surged 20% at the market close.
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