The Biden administration is considering measures that would force tobacco companies to reduce the amount of nicotine in all cigarettes to nonaddictive or minimally addictive levels, people familiar with the matter told The Wall Street Journal.
The administration is also weighing whether to ban menthol cigarettes, the Journal reports. Federal data shows that every year, 226 billion cigarettes are sold in the U.S., and about a third are menthol cigarettes. Menthol creates a cooling sensation in the throat, making menthol cigarettes an attractive product for young people and new smokers, and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says some studies have shown people who smoke menthols have a harder time quitting than those who smoke non-menthol cigarettes.
The Food and Drug Administration and National Institutes of Health have also funded research that showed when nicotine was almost completely removed from cigarettes, smokers were more likely to quit or turn to alternatives that are less harmful, like lozenges or gum, the Journal reports. Annually, 480,000 deaths in the U.S. are linked to cigarettes.
A spokesman for Altria, the maker of Marlboro, told the Journal that any action “must be made on science and evidence and must consider the real-world consequences of such actions, including the growth of an illicit market and the impact on hundreds of thousands of jobs from the farm to local stores across the country.” The Journal notes that if the Biden administration goes through with reducing nicotine and banning menthols, it will take years for the policies to go into effect and they will likely face multiple legal challenges.