“You can’t take my guns and you can’t take my nicotine,” the Fox News host quipped during his Tuesday night broadcast. “How bout a hard no on that.”
The Fox News pundit went on to lambast the US president’s latest announcement, which arrived a day before the Wall Street Journal reported that the Food and Drug Administration would ban Juul Labs to remove its e-cigarettes from the US market where it accounts for about 75 per cent of all vapes sold in the country. The FDA formally announced the ban on Thursday.
Both announcements are part of the administration’s ambitious initiative to tackle cancer rates in the country, rates that the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention predicts will grow to nearly 2.3m new diagnoses a year by 2050 compared to the 1.9m that were diagnosed in 2021.
“They have a new drug war,” Mr Carlson said while introducing his segment alongside a picture of Mr Biden with the caption “Nanny State”. “Nicotine is not the thing that gives you cancer. Nicotine is the thing, it’s addictive, but it also increases mental acuity,” he said, partially correctly highlighting that the naturally occurring chemical found in tobacco plants is not a known carcinogen, or as the CDC puts it: “The information about nicotine as a carcinogen is inconclusive.”
Mr Carlson, however, failed to recognise the main thrust of the policy’s goal, which is to make cigarettes less addictive, which can only be achieved by decreasing the levels of nicotine in products sold in the US.
“Nicotine is powerfully addictive,” said Robert M Califf, the commissioner for the FDA. “Making cigarettes and other combusted tobacco products minimally addictive or non-addictive would help save lives.”
In the US, smoking is attributed by the CDC as being the leading cause of death, accounting for 480,000 deaths each year. The policy announcement went onto underscore how more than half of adult smokers have made a serious attempt to quit smoking in the past year, but failed and cited the addictive nature of the product.
While the nicotine and Juul-banning policies out of the Biden White House is being handled by the FDA, and is being promoted as a public health initiative, Mr Carlson saw the two orders in a far more insidious light.
“What happens when you get off nicotine? Well, your testosterone levels plummet, and you gain weight. Both of which the administration is for because you become more passive and easier to control,” the prime-time host alleged.
In the same segment, to underscore his frustration, Mr Carlson went on to breathe life into a false claim that has been circulating in right-wing circles which alleges that the Biden administration is “sending out crack pipes using tax dollars”.
All this, he argued, while they remove nicotine, a drug he emphasised was “one of the few remaining pleasures” for working class men.
“Do you see a connection there?” he asked.
In reality, the Department of Health and Human Services launched a $30m grant program to help “address the nation’s substance use and overdose epidemic” by reducing the dangers related to drug use, part of which is to be dispersed over the next three years to support “community-based overdose prevention programs, syringe services programs, and other harm reduction services,” using what HHS calls “evidence-based practices”, according to FactCheck.org.
Mr Carlson wasn’t the only right-wing TV personality to be turned off by the recent policies announced this week from the Democratic president’s administration.
The day after Mr Carlson took to the airwaves to vent his frustrations about the nicotine industry going up in smoke, Sean Hannity made the bold proclamation on his Wednesday night show that he would smoke an e-cigarette on the programme in an act of protest, even if it meant “breathing toxins into your lungs”.
“They ban it, and I’ll do it live on TV and they can come and arrest me. How’s that” Mr Hannity told his guest, Fox News’ Tracy Gallagher.
Mr Hannity perhaps missed the line in the Wall Street Journal report that indicated that it was just Juul e-cigarettes that the FDA was preparing to order its removal from US shelves, not all vapes.
In response, he took a similar line of attack with Mr Biden that his Fox News colleague chose and decided to rail against the other war on drugs.
“While the Biden FDA wants people to stop vaping, many Democratic-run cities and states, they have no problem decriminalising even hard drugs, even as overdose deaths are spiking,” Mr Hannity said, acknowledging that states like Oregon have passed legislation to decriminalise small quantities of illicit drugs.