(AP) — United States health officials on Tuesday endorsed a type of cigarette that could help ease the addictive grip of smoking by delivering very low levels of nicotine.
The Food and Drug Administration will allow 22nd Century Group to begin selling the first low-nicotine cigarettes reviewed by federal health regulators.
The products contain roughly 95% less nicotine than standard cigarettes, according to the FDA.
Nicotine, which occurs naturally in tobacco plants, is the addictive chemical that makes cigarettes, chew and related products so hard to quit.
Past efforts to sell similar low-nicotine products have fallen flat.
Regulators stressed that their ruling does not mean the new products are safer than regular cigarettes. The agency noted there are no safe tobacco products.
Cigarettes cause cancer, lung disease, stroke and a number of other deadly diseases.
But the agency’s tobacco chief, Mitch Zeller, noted in a statement that 22nd Century Group’s products are the first cigarettes to show the potential “to help reduce nicotine dependence among addicted smokers.”
The FDA is continuing to review a separate application from the company on whether the cigarettes present a reduced risk to smokers.
The US smoking rate has fallen to an all-time low of 14% of adults, or roughly 34 million Americans.
But smoking remains the leading cause of preventable disease and death in the U.S., responsible for some 480,000 deaths annually.