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US moves to slash nicotine in cigarettes

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US regulators Thursday opened the door to slashing the amount of nicotine in cigarettes in order to make them less addictive, a move that could mean millions fewer smokers in the years to come.

The US Food and Drug Administration said it is seeking public input and will begin “to explore a product standard to lower nicotine in cigarettes to minimally or non-addictive levels.”

Despite decades of anti-smoking campaigns, nearly half a million people die in the United States each year from cigarette smoking, which costs almost $300 billion a year in direct health care and lost productivity, the FDA said.

“We’re taking a pivotal step today that could ultimately bring us closer to our vision of a world where combustible cigarettes would no longer create or sustain addiction -– making it harder for future generations to become addicted in the first place and allowing more currently addicted smokers to quit or switch to potentially less harmful products,” said FDA commissioner Scott Gottlieb.

A study released Thursday in the New England Journal of Medicine projected that cutting nicotine to a non-addictive level could mean five million fewer smokers in the first year of implementation.

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Within five years, another eight million fewer people would smoke, and by 2060, the smoking rate in the United States could drop to 1.4 percent, down from its present level of 15 percent, said the report.

The number of lives saved could reach 8.5 million by century’s end, it said.

Tobacco executives from Altria and R.J. Reynolds expressed interest in the FDA proposal and vowed to work closely with the agency on what is expected to be a process lasting several years.

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“Today’s advance notice is a request for information, not a proposed rule, and is the first step in a multi-year process that will require the agency to examine and resolve many complex issues,” said Murray Garnick, executive vice president and general counsel of Altria Group, Inc., which includes tobacco giant Philip Morris.

“As FDA has acknowledged, any proposed nicotine standard would need to be part of a comprehensive package,” he added.

“Altria has already been preparing for any reasonable potential standard, and we plan to participate in every step of this process.”

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The Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids called the FDA plan “bold” and urged the agency to act quickly and set a hard deadline.

“This is truly a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to greatly accelerate progress in reducing tobacco use – the nation’s No. 1 cause of preventable death — and bring us closer to eliminating the death and disease it causes,” said the group’s president, Matthew Myers.


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South Korean fighter jets fire 400 warning shots at Russian military plane

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South Korean fighter jets fired nearly 400 warning shots at a Russian military aircraft on Tuesday after it violated the country's airspace, with Seoul warning of a far stronger reaction if a breach reoccurs.

The Russian A-50 early warning and control aircraft breached South Korean airspace twice off its east coast, the defence ministry official said, forcing the air force to scramble fighters.

Moscow denied any of its military aircraft had violated South Korean airspace, saying its planes had carried out planned drills over international waters.

But Seoul said a warplane entered South Korean airspace near the disputed Dokdo islets -- which are also claimed by Japan -- the first such violation since Korean War hostilities ended in 1953.

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2020 Election

Democrats are on the verge of setting a ‘time bomb’ for any candidate who can defeat Trump

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If a new president takes over the White House in January 2021, he or she may quickly find that the Democratic Party that just won control of the executive branch left a loaded gun in the hands of the Republicans, who are all too eager to use it.

That should be the takeaway from reports about the budget negotiations between the House Democrats and the Trump administration. According to Bloomberg reporter Sahil Kapur, the parties are coalescing around an agreement to raise spending by $350 billion, offset that increase somewhat with about $75 billion, and extend the debt ceiling — now set to expire in the fall — to July 31, 2021.

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2020 Election

State Sen. Royce West enters Democratic primary to challenge John Cornyn

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State Sen. Royce West made it official Monday: He’s running for U.S. Senate, joining a crowded and unsettled Democratic primary in the race to unseat Republican John Cornyn.

“I’m battle tested,” West told supporters at a campaign launch event. “You’ve seen me in battle, and I’m ready today to announce my candidacy for the United States Senate.”

The Dallas attorney has been viewed as a potential primary contender for some time now, but he remained mum publicly on his plans. In June, West met with U.S. Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., where he reportedly had a “positive meeting” and signaled that he was likely to throw his hat in the ring. He filed the Federal Election Commission paperwork to formally launch his bid Friday.

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