Saying most smokers want to quit and could do so if nicotine wasn't keeping them hooked, the American Medical Association has called for the removal of nicotine from tobacco within five to 10 years.
The 290,000-member AMA, the nation's largest professional organization of physicians, represents about 40 percent of U.S. doctors and is a powerful lobbying force and opinion shaper.
"We know that cigarette companies can remove nicotine from tobacco. They've already done it through a process similar to that which is used to take caffeine out of coffee," said Dr. Ronald Davis of Detroit, chairman of the AMA's Council on Scientific Affairs.
Whether nicotine should be removed gradually or all at once would need to be decided after more research, Davis said.
In the meantime, the AMA wants the government to require tobacco companies to put labels on their products so users would know not only the quantity of nicotine but also whether it is relatively high or low.
The AMA's recommendations, adopted on the last day of its twice-yearly policy making meeting, came Thursday. A day earlier, the U.S. Senate killed a bill that would have created the first national tobacco policy.
"The progress of the nation toward reducing the prevalence of smoking and tobacco smoke exposure appears to be stalled, if not actually moving in the wrong direction," the AMA said.
A representative of the Tobacco Institute, a trade association, said no one there was available to comment.
By BRENDA C. COLEMAN