22nd Century Group, Inc., a plant biotechnology company whose proprietary technology enables genetic engineering of levels of nicotine and related alkaloids in the tobacco plant, lately received strong academic support from the opinions of a Harvard professor. The company owns or exclusively controls 98 issued patents in 79 countries where at least 75% of the world’s smokers reside.
In the May edition of The Harvard Gazette, public health professor Gregory Connolly argued for action by the FDA to massively reduce the permitted nicotine levels in cigarettes from seven milligrams to 0.3 milligrams, or about the level found in a tomato. Such a move would aid in the reduction of addiction and tobacco-related disease.
“If I was head of the FDA, the meeting [to solve the tobacco problem] would take about an hour,” the Harvard article quoted Connolly as saying. “I want to see the last cigarette sold to a child by 2020. I want to accelerate that because I want to go to the party.”
The Harvard professor and former member of the FDA’s Tobacco Product Scientific Advisory Committee (known as TPSAC) is said to be working on a research project which will examine tobacco company documents in litigations filed against cigarette companies. He noted that new legislation passed in 2009 (the Tobacco Control Act) gave the FDA authority to mandate reduced cigarette nicotine levels, a regulatory tool which the FDA has so far refused to use. The FDA foot-dragging is in spite of a learned study accusing that the big cigarette companies, including Philip Morris USA (NYSE: MO), ramped up nicotine levels.
22nd Century describes its prescription-only Very Low Nicotine (VLN) cigarettes in clinical development, called “X-22,” on its website as well as provides information on research and its clinical pathway. The company points out that an X-22 cigarette contains approximately 0.40 mg of nicotine, less than any other cigarette in the world.
Traders will immediately draw comparisons between X-22 and other smoking-cessation aids and devices. One thing most will bear in mind is the powerful tactile, physiological, and psychological influences of regular smoking as they weigh relative values of companies in the field. A smoker’s addiction is partly about seeing the smoke, partly about the sensation of inhaling the smoke, partly about the act of lighting the cigarette, and partly about how the nicotine affects the body. So, when considering a company’s prospects in this field, these effects of having an actual burning cigarette compare very favorably against other companies’ strategies of providing electronic cigarettes or nicotine lozenges, such as Star Scientific’s (Nasdaq: CIGX) marketing of CigRx containing oral doses of yerba mate and anatabine, but no actual cigarette (anatabine is an alkaloid occurring at 3.9% in tobacco).
Generally speaking, data has shown that smokers who wish to stop smoking, or at least curb their habit, prefer catering to the full-realm of psychological and physical aspects of smoking as shown in the rise in popularity of e-cigs.
Further in the comparison of upside investment potential, Star Scientific, Inc. (CIGX) sports a market cap of nearly $600 million with trailing-twelve month (ttm) revenue of $842,000. XXII is carrying a paltry market cap of less than $35 million with a ttm revenue of $216,000 and the company reports that it is shipping approximately $700,000 worth of cigarettes to the U.S. government for research purposes in July. While CIGX often is in the spotlight for its quest to bring its products to market, with votes of confidence coming from people such as Gregory Connolly for the reduction of nicotine in smokes, 22nd Century Group may soon be looking to squeeze into that light as well in the near future.