The White House is considering implementing a measure that would force cigarette companies to adjust the levels of nicotine in their products to a non-addictive or minimally-addictive level, according to The Wall Street Journal.
They are also reportedly considering a total ban on menthol products, which have long been considered a gateway product for younger smokers.
The Food and Drug Administration, which has regulatory oversight of tobacco, must respond in court by 29 April to a citizens’ petition to ban menthols.
Sources within the FDA say there is strong support for banning menthol cigarettes and small cigars, according to The Washington Post.
The 2009 Tobacco Control Act banned candy, fruit and spice flavorings in cigarettes because of their potential appeal to children, but did not deal with menthol.
The FDA estimates that there are more than 19 million smokers of menthol cigarettes in the US, which includes a large majority of African American smokers.
The government body says that nicotine itself does not cause cancer, lung or heart disease, but it causes the addiction to cigarettes that have been linked to 480,000 deaths in the US annually.
Tobacco stocks fell sharply on Wall Street after news of the potential ban broke on Monday, with Altria shares closing down more than 6 per cent, British American Tobacco shares down 2 per cent, and Philip Morris International shares down more than 1 per cent.
“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,” said Altria spokesperson George Parman.