The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) is preparing to lower the amount of nicotine that companies are allowed to put in cigarettes by 2023.
The nicotine limit was announced in the agency’s biannual regulatory agenda.
According to the notice, obtained by The Hill, the FDA will propose by 2023 “a tobacco product standard that would establish a maximum nicotine level in cigarettes and certain finished tobacco products.”
The plan is to lower the amount significantly enough that it will make them less addictive.
“Because tobacco-related harms primarily result from addiction to products that repeatedly expose users to toxins, FDA would take this action to reduce addictiveness to certain tobacco products, thus giving addicted users a greater ability to quit,” the announcement continued.
“The proposed product standard is anticipated to benefit the population as a whole while also advancing health equity by addressing disparities associated with cigarette smoking, dependence, and cessation,” the FDA added.
The plan did not specify how much they plan to lower the nicotine content.
While anti-smoking advocates have applauded the idea, critics have noted that it is likely people will just smoke more cigarettes to get the amount of nicotine that they are used to. It could also end up with a dangerous black market for imported cigarettes.
The FDA has also been floating the idea of banning menthol cigarettes and cigars — something that activists have said would disproportionately harm black communities. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 85 percent of black smokers prefer menthol.
The American Civil Liberties Union has opposed a ban on these grounds. They argued that it would have “serious racial justice implications.” However, the ACLU has a lengthy history of accepting large amounts of money from the tobacco industry.
“At this pivotal moment, as the public demands an end to police violence erupting from minor offenses, we call on the Biden administration to rethink its approach and employ harm reduction strategies over a ban that will lead to criminalization,” Aamra Ahmad, senior legislative counsel with the American Civil Liberties Union, wrote in a statement. “It is now clear that policies that amount to prohibition have serious racial justice implications.”
Eric Garner, the ACLU points out, was a black man killed by New York City police in 2014 after being busted selling illegal single cigarettes on the street.
Garner’s mother, Gwen Carr, has also been outspoken in opposition of a ban.
“A new law would criminalize menthol cigarettes, which black people smoke almost exclusively, giving police officers another excuse to harass and harm any Black man, woman or child they choose,” Carr said in a short video about the proposed ban. “A bad law has consequences for mothers like me.”
Canada banned menthol cigarettes in 2017 and according to a study conducted after the ban, it caused a nearly five percent drop in sales of cigarettes across the board as people began to quit.
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