Biden administration officials are considering whether to proceed with a ban on menthols to curb youth smoking, a reduction in nicotine or both.

A woman bundles up as she smokes a cigarette during a snowy day in Rolling Meadows, Illinois, February 6, 2021
A woman bundles up as she smokes a cigarette during a snowy day in Rolling Meadows, Illinois, February 6, 2021 (AP)

The Biden administration is reportedly considering banning menthol cigarettes as well as a policy that would require tobacco companies to cut nicotine levels in cigarettes down to a level where they will no longer be addictive, US media are reporting. 

The US Food and Drug Administration has until April 29 to respond in court to a citizen's petition calling for a ban on menthol cigarettes, the Wall Street Journal reported

Administration officials are considering whether to proceed with the menthol ban, a reduction in nicotine or both, the Wall Street Journal said, citing people familiar with the matter. 

A nicotine-reduction policy seeks to push smokers to either quit or turn to other less toxic alternatives by lowering the chemical in cigarettes to minimally addictive levels.

Banning menthol cigarettes is aimed at preventing potential smokers from picking up the habit as young people flock to menthols when they begin smoking.

In 2017, the Trump administration proposed similar rules on menthol and nicotine-reduction a ban on menthol for years, but plans were shelved in 2019 when its key driver Scott Gottlieb left.

The US government proposed cutting nicotine in cigarettes to “non-addictive” levels on Friday in a major regulatory shift designed to move smokers toward potentially less harmful e-cigarettes.

At least 480,000 Americans lose their lives to cigarette smoking per year while some 16 million Americans live with a smoking-related-disease, according to the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. 

READ MORE: Is the coronavirus pandemic the best time to quit smoking?

Menthol ban

The US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has been deliberating an outright ban of menthol cigarettes since 2009 when the Tobacco Control Act was signed into law. It gave the FDA the power to regulate the manufacturing, distribution and marketing of tobacco products.

Menthol’s cooling effect decreases airway irritation in the lungs, which is thought to make it easier for menthol smokers to inhale deeper and longer. Some research also suggests that menthol may enhance absorption of nicotine, adding to the addictive potential of cigarettes.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 26 percent of all cigarettes sold in the US in 2015 were mentholated.

READ MORE: E-cigarettes raise lung disease risks, but less than smoking: study

Source: TRTWorld and agencies