The U.S. Food and Drug Administration is in the process of banning menthol-flavored cigarettes as well as all flavored cigars with menthol flavor, within the next year, the agency announced on Thursday (April 29).. The move of the FDA is seen as an effort to curb the preventable disease, sickness, and death.
“Banning menthol—the last allowable flavor—in cigarettes and banning all flavors in cigars will help save lives, particularly among those disproportionately affected by these deadly products,” Acting FDA Commissioner Dr. Janet Woodcock said in a statement. “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, all of whom are far more likely to use these tobacco products.”
“For far too long, certain populations, including African Americans, have been targeted, and disproportionately impacted by tobacco use. Despite the tremendous progress we’ve made in getting people to stop smoking over the past 55 years, that progress hasn’t been experienced by everyone equally,” said Mitch Zeller, J.D., director of the FDA’s Center for Tobacco Products. “These flavor standards would reduce cigarette and cigar initiation and use, reduce health disparities, and promote health equity by addressing a significant and disparate source of harm. Taken together, these policies will help save lives and improve the public health of our country as we confront the leading cause of preventable disease and death.”
Menthol cigarettes are used prevalently in African American and other minority communities. Although African Americans smoke fewer cigarettes and begin smoking later in life, they are more likely to die from smoking-related diseases than Whites according to the statistics from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. In 2020, groups including the African American Tobacco Control Leadership Council, Action on Smoking and Health, the American Medical Association, and the National Medical Association filed a lawsuit against the FDA that claimed that the agency had failed to act on menthol cigarettes. In November, a court denied the FDA’s motion to dismiss the lawsuit.
The lawsuit stated: The lawsuit added: “FDA’s delay, inaction, and failure ‘to move quickly’ has been devastating, leading to millions of people initiating smoking cigarettes, and thousands of premature deaths.”
According to the CDC, more than a third of all the cigarettes sold in the United States in 2018 was the last year for which statistics were made available to the public.