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Even 8 out of 10 smokers think cigarettes should have LESS nicotine to make them non-addictive

Even 8 out of 10 smokers think cigarettes should have LESS nicotine to make them non-addictive, report finds

  • On average, a single combustible cigarette contains 10.2 mg of nicotine per gram of tobacco – but it varies widely between each product from each brand 
  • Currently the US Food and Drug Administration doesn’t specifically cap nicotine
  • A new CDC survey of over 4,000 adults found that Americans – even 8 out of 10 smokers – want less nicotine in cigarettes 
  • The FDA proposed a rule to place a nicotine limit and other regulations on cigarettes in March, which is now open for comment 

The vast majority of adults in the US would like cigarettes to contain less nicotine – including 81 percent of smokers.

That’s music to the Food and Drug Administration’s (FDA) ears, since in March it proposed a new rule to limit nicotine in combustible cigarettes to ‘non-addictive’ levels. 

As of 2017, over 34 million US adults smoked, but nearly 70 percent of them would like to quit. 

Nicotine may not be the most harmful cigarette ingredient to overall health, but it is the one responsible for the addictive quality of tobacco, and the FDA hopes that by drawing a hard limit on it, 8.5 million lives can be saved by 2100. 

The FDA is considering putting a cap on nicotine in combustible cigarettes to keep the ingredient to ‘non-addictive’ levels – and over 80 percent of never, current and former US smokers support lowering its content 

Smoking’s lethal effects and public health campaigns against cigarettes have brought smoking rates to a record low.  

‘We have made considerable progress in reducing cigarette smoking over the past half century through the implementation of proven, population-based strategies,’ said Dr Brian King, deputy director for research translation in CDC’s Office on Smoking and Health. 

Yet regulation of tobacco products in the US is loose and permissive compared to most peer nations. 

The Food and Drug Administration oversees and instructs what ingredients can be included in a US cigarette, how it is made, labelled and sold. 

But it stops short of prescribing how much nicotine, sugar, ammonia, tobacco or other ingredients can be in cigarette sold in the US. 

The result is a broad range of nicotine levels from cigarette to cigarette. 

At the very lowest end of the spectrum, according to a 2017 report, are Doral cigarettes which contain 7.6 mg of nicotine. 

Newports, on the other hand, contained a whopping 13.4 mg of nicotine.  

The FDA wants to level the playing field, regulating nicotine levels for both combustible and electronic cigarettes as part of its March 2018 proposed rule-making. 


The nicotine content of cigarettes is not currently regulated in the US, and varies wildly. 

For example, one cigarette of the following brands contains: 

  • Doral Ultra Lights – 7.6 mg nicotine
  • Marlboro Lights – 10.6 mg nicotine
  • Virginia Slims –  10.5 mg nicotine
  • Marlboro Full Flavors – 10.9 mg nicotine
  • Camel Lights – 10.3 mg nicotine 
  • Camel Full Flavors – 9.5 mg nicotine
  • Newport Full Flavors – 13.4 mg nicotine 
  • A Juul pod – a 20-pack of cigarette’s worth of nicotine, between  152 and 268 mg of nicotine 

Its proposal came four years after the former Surgeon General called reducing highly-addictive nicotine content in cigarettes a top priority for combating smoking, which is still responsible for 480,000 deaths a year in the US. 

One study estimated that if it was passed into law as currently drafted, the FDA’s proposal would steer 33 million people off the path of smoking and could prevent as many as 8.5 smoking-related people from developing and dying from smoking-related diseases. 

‘Lowering nicotine levels in cigarettes could help current smokers quit and make it less likely for future generations to become addicted to these products,’ said Dr King. 

The FDA has not yet determined what level of nicotine it would deem acceptable but promises it will apply the ‘best science’ available to its decision. 

So far, that science has suggested that 0.5 mg of nicotine per cigarette or less are candidate content levels for ‘non-addictive’ smoking. 

Whatever level the FDA lands on, the CDC’s new report suggests Americans broadly favor lower nicotine levels. 

The new survey, taken by 4,037 Americans over 18, found that 81 percent of people who had never smoked, 81 percent of current smokers, and 84 percent of former smokers were all in favor of making nicotine content lower so cigarettes would be less addictive. 

‘Cigarettes and other combustible tobacco products are responsible for the overwhelming burden of death and disease from tobacco use in the United States,’ said Dr Corinne Graffunder, director of CDC’s Office on Smoking and Health. 

‘Lowering nicotine levels in cigarettes could help current smokers quit and make it less likely for future generations to become addicted to these products.’