Stock prices for cigarette maker Altria Group, formerly known as Philip Morris, dropped Monday after reports the Biden administration is considering reducing the level of nicotine allowed in cigarettes.
The Wall Street Journal reports under consideration right now is a mandate to lower nicotine levels in all cigarettes sold in the U.S. to levels which are no longer addictive.
Altria’s stock dropped 6% Monday and another 2% in after-hours trading.
Driving this conversation is another cigarette-related decision the administration must make soon.
The FDA must respond by April 29 to a citizens’ petition whether they intend to pursue a policy to ban menthol cigarettes. In 2013, the Public Health Law Center and others filed a petition calling on the FDA to prohibit menthol in cigarettes.
Some research has found that menthol cigarettes, which have a minty flavor and can make smoking less irritating, are more likely to be smoked by young people and may be harder to quit.
“When used in cigarettes, menthol may reduce the irritation and harshness of smoking,” the FDA’s own research says.
The administration is reportedly now deciding whether to move forward with the menthol ban or lowering the level of nicotine, or possibly both.
Altria told CNN that any action taken by the FDA "must consider the real-world consequences," such as the impact on "hundreds of thousands of jobs from the farm to local stores across the country" and the potential rise of illegal markets. Altria sells Marlboro, Virginia Slims and Parliament cigarettes in the United States.
Both lowering nicotine levels and banning menthol in cigarettes were ideas proposed by Scott Gottlieb, the FDA commissioner under the Trump administration in 2017 as part of a larger tobacco policy. However, the proposals were shelved when he left in 2019.