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Marlboro Maker Altria Asks FDA to Spread the Word That Nicotine Doesn't Cause Cancer

Daniel Acker | Bloomberg | Getty Images
  • Marlboro parent Altria is asking the Food and Drug Administration to help it spread the word that nicotine doesn't cause cancer.
  • CNBC obtained a copy of a letter that Altria sent to the FDA asking the agency to help get the message out about nicotine as part of a proposed advertising campaign about the risks of tobacco use.
  • The company said the move would help traditional smokers transition to noncombustible methods of using nicotine that are potentially less risky than products with smoke.

Marlboro parent Altria is asking the Food and Drug Administration to help it spread the word that nicotine doesn't cause cancer.

CNBC on Thursday obtained a copy of a letter Altria sent to the FDA asking the agency to help get the message out about nicotine as part of a proposed advertising campaign on the risks of tobacco use.

"We have received the letter and will respond directly to the company," FDA spokeswoman Alison Hunt told CNBC in an email.

Altria was not immediately available to comment on the matter.

In the letter, which was dated Feb. 25 and signed by Paige C. Magness, senior vice president of regulatory affairs, Altria cited government studies on the misperceptions about nicotine. It said that clearing up such misperceptions would help traditional smokers transition to noncombustible methods of using nicotine that are potentially less risky than products with smoke.

Bloomberg News first reported on the letter Thursday.

While the vast majority of Altria's revenue comes from selling cigarettes and cigars, it also owns a stake in vaping company Juul and nicotine pouch brand On!, and it markets IQOS, a smoke-free tobacco product that heats tobacco instead of burning it, in the U.S.

There are at least 60 carcinogens in cigarette smoke, but these newer products deliver nicotine without the smoke.

As Altria's regulator, the FDA can determine what claims it can make about its products. The FDA has allowed Altria to market IQOS as providing users with less exposure to harmful chemicals than cigarette smoke.

Nicotine is the ingredient that makes tobacco addictive, and it may have other negative health effects. In its report, Bloomberg said studies have shown that nicotine can interfere with brain development and birth outcomes and acts as an agricultural poison in large doses.

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