Feds May Reduce Nicotine Allowed in Cigarettes

The Biden Administration also is discussing a ban on menthol.

April 21, 2021

Woman with Cigarette

WASHINGTON—Several changes to U.S. regulations regarding cigarettes are being considered by the Biden Administration, including lowering the amount of the addictive substance nicotine that cigarettes can legally contain, reports TheHill.com.

Administration officials are reportedly considering the nicotine reduction mandate, as well as a ban on the sale of menthol cigarettes, which are already banned in several countries. Some experts say that the menthol flavor is attractive to underage consumers, similar to other flavored tobacco products.

If implemented, the changes would mirror policies promoted by Dr. Scott Gotlieb, the former commissioner of the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) who took a hard stance against e-cigarette usage, particularly among young Americans. He threatened to pull all e-cigarettes off the market in early 2019. Eventually, the agency under the Trump Administration banned all flavored e-cigarette sales other than tobacco and menthol flavors.

News of the latest FDA considerations was met with pushback from cigarette manufacturers.

“Any action that the FDA takes must be based 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,” said a spokesperson for Altria, which produces Marlboro.

“There are better tools for improving public health” than pursuing lower nicotine levels in cigarettes, added a spokesperson for Reynolds American, owner of the Newport and Camel brands.

According to the Wall Street Journal, the consideration has received more attention as the deadline for declaring the administration’s intentions on menthol approaches. The FDA must respond in court no later than April 29 to a citizens’ petition to ban menthols by disclosing whether the agency intends to pursue such a policy. Both proposed policies would take years to implement and would likely face legal challenges.

Lowering nicotine in cigarettes has been discussed by the FDA since the 1990s. Modifying tobacco plants or stripping nicotine from the leaf during manufacturing is one such way this can be accomplished. The Tobacco Control Act of 2009 permitted the FDA to mandate such a change but stipulated that any change be based on scientific evidence. Meanwhile, the FDA has had an eye on banning menthols for years. About a third of the 226 billion cigarettes sold annually in the country include menthols.

As NACS Daily has reported, the U.K. and the European Union banned retailers from selling and manufacturers from producing menthol tobacco products in May 2020.

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