Tobacco companies got a big surprise today when the U.S. Food and Drug Administration said that it was planning to make their product less likely to kill people. The FDA is working to cut the amount of nicotine in cigarettes to non-addictive levels, Bloomberg reports. The logic behind the move is pretty straightforward: If nicotine is no longer addictive, people are more likely to stop smoking, which would make them less likely to die from smoking-related causes.
“The overwhelming amount of death and disease attributable to tobacco is caused by addiction to cigarettes—the only legal consumer product that, when used as intended, will kill half of all long-term users,” FDA Commissioner Scott Gottlieb said in a statement announcing the move.
As the FDA notes, tobacco use causes more than 480,000 deaths every single year in the U.S., and costs society nearly $300 billion a year in health care costs and lost productivity. Also, it’s pretty gross.
The surprise move sent tobacco company stocks plummeting, because Wall Street knows that if cigarettes are less addictive people might actually stop buying them, which is bad for profits (but good for the people who are not dead).