Tuesday, September 27, 2022
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Menthol cigarette • Food and Drug Administration

The Food and Drug Administration announced on Thursday a proposed ban on menthol cigarettes and all flavors in cigars, a…


The Food and Drug Administration announced on Thursday a proposed ban on menthol cigarettes and all flavors in cigars, a move that could further drive down smoking rates in the U.S.

The FDA will solicit comments from the public before finalizing the rule, a process that could take years. But advocates say it’s a step in the right direction, pointing to one research model that estimated banning these flavors could lead to a 15% decline in tobacco use by 2026.

Menthol cigarettes and other tobacco products are displayed at a store in San Francisco.

Smoking is the main cause of lung cancer, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. In the U.S., menthol cigarettes represent over a third of cigarette sales, with almost 19 million users. Black Americans have disproportionately high rates of menthol smoking, a consequence of years of racially targeted advertising.

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration is proposing a ban on menthol flavored cigarettes and all cigar flavorings, except for tobacco, the agency said Thursday.The agency says the proposal has the potential to significantly reduce disease and death from tobacco by “reducing youth experimentation and addiction.””The proposed rules would help prevent children from becoming the next generation of smokers and help adult smokers quit,” Health and Human Services Secretary Xavier Becerra said in a statement. “Additionally, the proposed rules represent an important step to advance health equity by significantly reducing tobacco-related health disparities.”The proposed standards are based in “clear science and evidence” that establish the addictive nature and harm of the flavored products, the agency said. The proposal builds on the Family Smoking Prevention and Tobacco Control Act, which banned cigarette flavors — aside from tobacco and menthol — in 2009.

The Food and Drug Administration on Thursday proposed banning menthol cigarettes, a landmark action applauded by leading health and civil rights groups that say the industry has a history of aggressively marketing to Black communities and causing severe harm, including higher rates of smoking-related illness and death.

The FDA also proposed prohibiting flavors in cigars, including in small ones called cigarillos that are popular among teenagers.

 

The proposed bans were announced by FDA commissioner Robert M. Califf in an appearance at a congressional subcommittee. He told the panel the agency had determined “that these actions are appropriate for the protection of public health” and would improve the health and “reduce the mortality risk of current smokers of menthol cigarettes or flavored cigars by substantially decreasing their consumption and increasing the likelihood of cessation.”

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The U.S. Food and Drug Administration on Thursday released proposed rules—first announced a year ago—to ban menthol cigarettes and flavored cigars.

“The proposed rules would help prevent children from becoming the next generation of smokers and help adult smokers quit,” U.S. Health and Human Services Secretary Xavier Becerra said in an FDA news release.

FDA Commissioner Robert Califf discussed the proposed bans Thursday while appearing before a congressional subcommittee, the Washington Post reported.

Califf told the panel that the proposed bans would “reduce the mortality risk of current smokers of menthol cigarettes or flavored cigars by substantially decreasing their consumption and increasing the likelihood of cessation,” the Post reported.

Califf’s remarks came nearly a year to the day after his predecessor, acting FDA Commissioner Dr. Janet Woodcock, announced the same proposed ban on menthol cigarettes and flavored small cigars.

  • The ban would “address health disparities experienced by communities of color, low-income populations and LGBTQ+ individuals, all of whom are far more likely to use these tobacco products,” Woodcock said at the time.
  • “Flavored tobacco, including flavors found in some cigars and cigarillos, makes smoking more appealing by reducing initial aversive responses, particularly for young people,” Woodcock explained.
  • Menthol cigarettes have been marketed aggressively to Black Americans for decades. About 85% of Black smokers use menthol brands compared with 30% of white smokers, the FDA said, and research shows menthol cigarettes are harder to quit than traditional tobacco products.
  • Anti-smoking and civil rights advocates applauded the proposed ban.
  • Menthol is the only cigarette flavor that was not prohibited under the 2009 law that gave the FDA authority over tobacco products, an exemption negotiated by industry lobbyists. The act did, though, instruct the agency to continue to weigh a ban. To date, the FDA has yet to eliminate any traditional tobacco product, though it has had that authority for over a decade.
  • Last April, the Biden administration pledged to try to ban menthol within the year, responding in part to African American groups who say menthol has led to lower rates of quitting and higher rates of death among Black people. Menthols are used by 85% of Black smokers.
  • “Black folks die disproportionately of heart disease, lung cancer and stroke,” said Phillip Gardiner of the African American Tobacco Control Leadership Council. “Menthol cigarettes and flavored cigars are the main vectors of those diseases in the Black and brown communities, and have been for a long time.”