Joe Biden Wants Your Cigarette to Contain Less Nicotine

A woman lights a cigarette behind the wheel of her car.

The move to reduce nicotine would not take effect for years, but could be the largest act against cigarettes in years.
Photo: Axel Heimken (AP)

Joe Biden’s administration is looking to reduce the amount of nicotine in cigarettes sold in the US, the Washington Post reported on Tuesday. The move could be a big blow to the tobacco industry but may help curb smokers’ dependence on cigarettes.

The administration is expected to announce a policy this week that would require tobacco companies to cut back on the amount of nicotine used in all cigarettes, a source familiar told the Washington Post. The policy itself would not take effect for years, having to go through the approval process of the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), which would be responsible for issuing the rule. Afterwards, the policy would likely face lawsuits from tobacco companies, which would further delay its implementation.

A 2018 study funded by the FDA found that lowering nicotine levels in cigarettes could “decrease the chances that future generations become addicted to cigarettes, and could make it easier for more currently addicted smokers to quit.”

The FDA has been mulling over a decision to reduce the levels of nicotine in cigarettes for several years as part of its regulation efforts for tobacco. If it does take effect, less nicotine in cigarettes could help smokers get over their addiction, thereby improving their overall health. Research has also shown that those who smoked cigarettes with less nicotine were less likely to turn to alternatives like e-cigarettes when trying to quit smoking. Many of them simply quit altogether.

Biden’s administration was reportedly close to issuing the same decision about a year ago, but seemed to have backed down, and instead issued a ban on menthol cigarettes and flavored cigars in April 2021 to help curb addiction.

Cigarette smoking causes an average of 480,000 deaths a year in the US, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. By reducing nicotine levels in cigarettes, the FDA believes that it can help prevent more than 8 million deaths by the end of the century.

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