The momentum began a week ago when the U.S. Food and Drug Administration made it clear that they wanted to reduce the levels of nicotine found in cigarettes to that of non-addictive levels. Given that 22nd Century Group Inc. (NYSE MKT:XXII) sits in the catbird seat as the world's leader in low-nicotine technology, shares of the stock have been catalyzed to add to strong gains already in 2017. Through its robust intellectual property portfolio to genetically alter nicotine levels in tobacco plants, the company, headquartered outside of Buffalo, NY, claims it is the only business in the world that can meet the ambitious goals of the FDA.
In fact, 22nd Century can grow tobacco used for cigarettes that contain less that 0.6 milligrams of nicotine each, about 97% less than the amount found in popular "light" cigarettes today, like Marlboro Silver. The company has the ability to manipulate nicotine in both directions, with the SPECTRUM product line varying 50-fold in nicotine levels.
22nd Century is no stranger to the U.S. government, delivering more than 22 million of its Very Low Nicotine (VLN) SPECTRUM cigarettes - with a new order recently for 2.4 million more - to the government for research. All tallied, the federal government has invested in excess of $100 million for independent clinical research on the benefits of SPECTRUM cigarettes.
The World Health Organization has also taken note of 22nd Century and its novel smokes, recommending all WHO-member countries to enact regulations mandating non-addictive levels in combustible cigarettes.
Understand that it's not the nicotine in cigarettes that directly causes the litany of diseases and health conditions. That's the result of burning and inhaling the tobacco. However, it is the nicotine that sinks its hooks into users, creating an addiction that has been described as difficult to break as that of powerful drugs like heroin. So, by reducing nicotine levels, the goal would be to decrease cigarette consumption and, ultimately, disease and health care burden.
Shares of XXII have risen every day since the FDA announcement and continue to churn higher on Friday to the tune of 21.0% to $2.40 with about 2-1/2 hours left in the trading week. With the gain, shares are at the highest level since October 2014, as Wall Street has rallied around the uniqueness of the company and its technology that could be the epicenter of a changing tobacco industry if the FDA indeed moves forward with its very public initiative.