Nonaddictive cigarettes could soon be a thing—a mandatory thing. The Biden administration is considering mandating that cigarettes contain nonaddictive or minimally addictive levels of nicotine, sources tell the Wall Street Journal. The move comes as the Food and Drug Administration is deciding on whether to ban menthol cigarettes; it must respond to a citizens petition on the matter by declaring whether it intends to do so by April 29. The sources say the FDA could potentially move forward with either move (menthol ban or nicotine limitations) or both. Neither the White House nor the FDA have publicly commented. Nicotine, while not responsible for cancer, heart disease, or lung disease, is the chemical that gets smokers addicted to tobacco products. Menthol, meanwhile, is blamed for getting younger smokers hooked, as its cooling effect on the throat is appealing; menthol cigarettes are also more difficult to quit.
"Many consumers wrongly believe that a cigarette very low in nicotine content is lower in risk than traditional cigarettes, a misconception that poses a major hurdle in determining proposed rulemaking for low nicotine cigarettes,” Camel maker Reynolds American tells CNBC. Nicotine can be stripped from tobacco leaves, or tobacco plants can be genetically modified to lower its levels, and the FDA has been considering such a move for decades. "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," says Marlboro maker Altria Group Inc. in a statement. Their shares, as well as those of other cigarette makers, slumped on the nicotine news, Bloomberg reports. (Read more cigarettes stories.)