Will Biden’s Cancer Moonshot Initiative Target Tobacco?

President does not address specific measures intended to cut cancer death rate at State of the Union
President Joe Biden
Photograph: Shutterstock

President Joe Biden addressed the nation Feb. 7 with the 2023 State of the Union Address. It was anticipated that the president would address goals to further reduce smoking as a part of his Cancer Moonshot Initiative. The Cancer Moonshot Initiative was created during the Obama administration and is aimed at improving treatment and support for cancer patients and their families, as well as an ongoing focus on cancer prevention and early detection.  

Biden stated in his address that it is the goal of his administration to “cut the cancer death rate by at least 50% over the next 25 years” but did not offer any specific measures he intends to take. A statement issued by the White House earlier this month stated, “While we have made progress, tobacco products still hook too many young people at an early age and take control away from individual Americans to make the decision not to smoke. The administration is working to put that control back in the hands of Americans.” 

The current administration has taken several steps recently toward initiatives to ban menthol and flavored cigarettes and flavored cigars as well as proposing to limit nicotine in cigarettes. The Unified Agenda and Regulatory Plan reports that a final rule/regulation to prohibit the use of menthol in cigarettes and roll-your-own tobacco is expected to be adopted by the Food and Drug Administration in August. The same report states a final rule/regulation banning characterizing flavors in cigars is expected to be adopted by the FDA in August.   

In addition, a separate Unified Agenda and Regulatory Plan reports that the FDA may issue a proposed rule sometime by October 2023 for setting a maximum level for nicotine in cigarettes and certain other combustible tobacco products. Ahead of the State of the Union, critics of this administration's tactics state that the prohibition approach has proven to be less effective than harm reduction policies.

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