The FDA can neither reduce nicotine levels to zero, nor can it ban cigarettes.
'Looking at ways to reduce nicotine levels in cigarettes so they are minimally or non-addictive, while not altering the nicotine content of non-combustible products such as e-cigarettes, is a cornerstone of our new and more comprehensive approach to effective tobacco regulation, ' he said.
However, Myers criticized it as "a serious error" for the FDA to significantly delay critical deadlines for complying with the agency's 2016 rule establishing oversight of electronic cigarettes, cigars and other previously unregulated tobacco products.
Nicotine is the key component in cigarettes that makes them addictive. There are also issues about packaging of tobacco products and levels of nicotine that must be hammered out.
Cigarette smoking is the leading cause of preventable disease and death in the United States, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Another reason is that World Health Organization has said that no specific amount of nicotine has yet been identified as the absolute threshold for addiction.
In addition, the U.S. agency said it will consider whether and how to exempt premium cigars from regulation and whether to ban menthol and other flavors in cigarettes, factors known as a leading driver of youth smoking.
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 manufacturers are expected to continue marketing the products while the reviewing of the application is done by the FDA. It plans to frame rules combining safety with e-cigarettes' role to help smokers give up smoking.
"Importantly, we expect the FDA will encourage continued RRP innovation with the goal of increasing adoption of these products - a huge positive for MO [Altria Group] and PM [Phillip Morris International]", said Bonnie Herzog, managing director of Wells Fargo Securities. Its Risk Analysis Division has been at the forefront of advancing a harm-reduction approach as a more effective public health strategy rather than the regulatory path imposed by the Obama Administration, which would have effectively banned nearly all e-cigarettes on the market today, the thinktank said.
The FDA's announcement sets in motion a lengthy rule-making process that will involve public comment and input from multiple stakeholders before any measures take effect.