The U.S. Food and Drug Administration has authority under the Family Smoking Prevention and Tobacco Control Act of 2009 to reduce nicotine levels, but not to zero. The FDA has not yet acted on this authority.
"Nicotine reduction could be a promising tool to protect the population from the harm and death caused by tobacco products," lead author Jennifer Pearson, research investigator for the Schroeder Institute, said in a statement.
The study presents nationally representative data from a June 2010 survey that found 46.7 percent of U.S. adults said the FDA should reduce levels of nicotine in cigarettes, which might make quitting easier.
Sixteen percent said the FDA should not change nicotine in cigarettes and 37.8 percent had no opinion.
Smokers who were interested in quitting smoking were more likely to support regulation than smokers who are not thinking of quitting. African-Americans, Hispanics and those with lower education levels were especially supportive of nicotine reduction, Pearson said.
"This data could be helpful to FDA in gauging public sentiment and tailoring its messaging if the agency chooses to move forward with such regulation," Pearson said.
The Schroeder Institute has formal academic ties with The Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health and Georgetown University's Lombardi Comprehensive Cancer Center. The Legacy Foundation was created as a result of the November 1998 Master Settlement Agreement between 46 states and the tobacco industry.
No further survey details were provided.