April 29th is the deadline for the FDA to respond to a citizens’ petition to ban menthol cigarettes and state whether or not they intend to go through with such a policy.
According to the Wall Street Journal, the Biden administration is also considering another policy that attempts to regulate cigarettes - a limit on the amount of nicotine in cigarettes. Cigarettes would only be allowed to contain non-addictive levels of nicotine.
The original ideas for these policies were written long ago, before the concerns about a youth vaping epidemic were popularized. One of the arguments for nicotine reduction, according to the Wall Street Journal, is as follows:
The nicotine-reduction policy under consideration would lower the chemical in cigarettes to nonaddictive or minimally addictive levels, aiming t push millions of smokers to either quit or switch to less harmful alternatives such as nicotine gums, lozenges or e-cigarettes.
There would be much confusion and outrage if the government made such a statement today.
Although lowering the nicotine limit was originally meant to target cigarettes, it would not be surprising if vapes and e-liquids would also be included in a nicotine limit. A lot of legislation has been passed so that vapes are taxed, restricted, and treated similarly to tobacco cigarettes. Given the current attitude towards vaping, it would be difficult to see e liquids being excluded from menthol bans and nicotine limits.
The basic reasoning behind nicotine reduction is simple. If cigarettes are less addictive, less people become addicted. Current smokers will be encouraged to switch off of cigarettes if they find cigarettes do not fulfill their nicotine needs anymore. The main argument against nicotine reduction is that people will still find ways to get nicotine in cigarettes - either by smoking many more cigarettes, or by finding their own cigarettes through the black market.
Banning menthol is meant to target younger, newer smokers who start off with menthol-flavored cigarettes. The arguments for and against this policy are more heavily debated, primarily because menthol cigarettes are preferred by Black smokers. Therefore, the arguments about whether or not a menthol ban will encourage illegal markets and police activity among Black communities are under more scrutiny than most other attempts to regulate nicotine.
Though the deadline for the administration’s decision is April 29th, there will be a lot of time and difficult legislation before anything actually happens. In the time it has taken for the citizens’ request to get a response, a lot has happened in the nicotine world. The youth vaping epidemic has become a widespread concern, IQOS has been introduced into the market, the PMTA deadlines have passed, and a global pandemic has occurred. Given how much the laws would have to cover, it is safe to assume that any action will take time.
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