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Three health groups are petitioning the Food and Drug Administration to regulate as "drugs" all low-tar, low-nicotine cigarettes as well as a new mock cigarette developed by the R.J. Reynolds Co.

In two petitions filed with the FDA, the American Cancer Society, the American Heart Association and the American Lung Association say the low-tar cigarettes and the new "smokeless nicotine delivery system" should be branded drugs under the Food, Drug and Cosmetic Act.If the FDA agrees, the manufacture, sale and promotion of 65 percent of cigarettes sold in the United States would be changed significantly, health group officials said.

The three groups filed the petitions acting as the Coalition on Smoking Or Health. An FDA spokesman said the petitions will be reviewed to determine their validity and the agency will reply within 180 days with details on what action will be taken, if any.

Current federal law defines drugs as articles "intended to affect the structure or any function of the body of man," or for use in "mitigation" or "prevention" of disease.