Reduced nicotine product standards for combustible tobacco: Building an empirical basis for effective regulation

Eric C. Donny, Dorothy K. Hatsukami, Neal L. Benowitz, Alan F. Sved, Jennifer W. Tidey, Rachel N. Cassidy

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

48 Scopus citations


Introduction: Both the Tobacco Control Act in the U.S. and Article 9 of the Framework Convention on Tobacco Control enable governments to directly address the addictiveness of combustible tobacco by reducing nicotine through product standards. Although nicotine may have some harmful effects, the detrimental health effects of smoked tobacco are primarily due to non-nicotine constituents. Hence, the health effects of nicotine reduction would likely be determined by changes in behavior that result in changes in smoke exposure. Methods: Herein, we review the current evidence on nicotine reduction and discuss some of the challenges in establishing the empirical basis for regulatory decisions. Results: To date, research suggests that very low nicotine content cigarettes produce a desirable set of outcomes, including reduced exposure to nicotine, reduced smoking, and reduced dependence, without significant safety concerns. However, much is still unknown, including the effects of gradual versus abrupt changes in nicotine content, effects in vulnerable populations, and impact on youth. Discussion: A coordinated effort must be made to provide the best possible scientific basis for regulatory decisions. The outcome of this effort may provide the foundation for a novel approach to tobacco control that dramatically reduces the devastating health consequences of smoked tobacco.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)17-22
Number of pages6
JournalPreventive medicine
StatePublished - Nov 1 2014

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
Research reported in this publication was supported by the National Institute on Drug Abuse and FDA Center for Tobacco Products (CTP) ( U54 DA031659 ; P50 DA036114 ). The content is solely the responsibility of the authors and does not necessarily represent the official views of the NIH or the Food and Drug Administration. RNC was supported by T32 DA016184.

Publisher Copyright:
© 2014 Elsevier Inc.


  • Addiction
  • Cigarettes
  • Harm reduction
  • Nicotine
  • Regulatory science
  • Tobacco


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