Biden White House looks to mandate lower nicotine levels in US cigarettes

You can’t legislate morality. Or healthy behavior, for that matter.

Anyone who believes otherwise need only look back to Prohibition, our nation’s ill-fated effort in the 1920s to protect the citizenry from the demonic effects of intoxicating spirits. How’d that work out?

Nonetheless, officials have repeatedly tried to control the citizens’ urges over the years, ignoring the lessons of history as they go.

This undeniable fact came to mind again with news that the White House is looking to mandate the reduction of nicotine levels in cigarettes to a point where smokes are no longer addictive.

And there you’d have it — problem solved, right? No more smokers. No more of the terrible health consequences of cigarette smoking.

Yeah, right — that would happen.

Because making it impossible for folks who are addicted to nicotine — or who simply enjoy the effects of the highly addictive drug — aren’t going to be magically free from desiring their fix if the federal government has made it impossible to get it from legal, over-the-counter cigarettes. They’ll look elsewhere, perhaps even to more dangerous alternatives. Black market smokes. Nicotine-laced products made in fly-by-night facilities shy on safety regulations. Street corner nicotine dealers promising the real thing.

The goal is understandable enough. In a perfect world, there’d be no one smoking cigarettes. The negative health consequences are so great — smoking is linked to 480,000 preventable deaths annually — that no one can defend smoking as a logical pursuit. But effectively barring it by diminishing the drug that smokers are administering to themselves with each drag will cause problems that are easily anticipated.

News of the plan was widely reported by various media outlets on Monday as something that was under consideration by President Joe Biden’s administration. There was no official announcement, no response to queries from reporters who asked questions of the White House. It’s enough to make one think that the Biden administration got the news out intentionally to see how it would be perceived.

In politics, this is called a “trial balloon.” Send it up, with no one’s name attached to it, and see if it can fly.

This one should go nowhere.

Except, perhaps, in the schemes of those who would like to see a thriving market of real, full-nicotine cigarettes that are legal in other nations being smuggled into the United States.

©2021 Advance Local Media LLC. Visit Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.