• Zulema Herrera Herrera

FDA plans to Ban Menthol Cigarettes and Flavored Cigars

Updated: May 21

By Zulema Herrera

The U.S Food and Drug Administration announced its plans to ban menthol cigarettes and all flavors in cigars. They credit their commitment to science-based evidence and to saving the lives of future generations as the basis of this decision. The trajectory for the issue on the proposed product standards is expected to be completed within the next year.

The announcement follows previous actions in 2009 when the FDA banned other flavored cigarettes. The restrictions on menthol, which is regarded as the "last allowable flavor," is an attempt to help reduce tobacco addictions and deaths—combusted tobacco, products being the leading cause of preventable death in the U.S.

"With these actions, the FDA will help significantly reduce youth initiation, increase the chances of smoking cessation among current smokers, and address health disparities experienced by communities of color, low-income populations, and LGBTQ+ individuals," said medical doctor, Janet Woodcock, in the press release, "all of whom are far more likely to use these tobacco products."

In another post by the FDA, they note the federal data which shows that 85% of Black smokers use menthol cigarettes and half of all menthol smokers range from ages 12 to 17. The properties in menthol help suppress the unpleasant flavors and harshness of tobacco products; increasing the chance of becoming addicted and, therefore, making it harder to quit. In a study referenced in the press release, the ban on menthol cigarettes could lead to an additional 930,000 smokers quitting, including 230,000 African Americans, in the first 12 to 17 months after the ban is enforced.

However, the ban will most likely face resistance by tobacco companies and tobacco-friendly states which can delay its implementation. Some arguing that the FDA's actions will not prevent individual consumer possession and could allow for criminal penalties that disproportionally affect people of color.

In an article by The Hill, they mention a statement made by The African American Tobacco Control Leadership Council which forefront the positive impact of the ban as a "major step forward in Saving Black Lives." With previous efforts in 2009 to more recent efforts in the last year to ban e-cigarettes, this decision has the potential to decrease the overall number of death and diseases caused by these harmful tobacco products by making it difficult to attain it in the market that too often targets communities of color.

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