The Biden administration on Thursday announced plans to ban menthol cigarettes and flavored cigars, including menthol.
“Banning menthol – the last flavor allowed – in cigarettes and banning all flavors in cigars will help save lives, especially among those disproportionately affected by these deadly products. With these measures, the FDA will help reduce dramatically initiating youth and increasing the odds of smoking.Weaning current smokers and addressing the health disparities experienced by communities of color, low-income populations and LGBTQ + people, all of whom are much more likely to use these tobacco products, ”Janet Woodcock, MD, acting commissioner of the Food and Drug Administration said in a report.
Woodcock expressed hope and belief that these bans “would set us on a path to end tobacco-related illness and death in the United States.”
The FDA pointed to studies suggesting that a menthol ban would help people quit smoking, noting that menthol makes tobacco more palatable and “facilitates progression to regular smoking, especially in youth and young adults.” .
“Study suggests that banning menthol cigarettes in the United States would cause 923,000 more smokers to quit, including 230,000 African Americans in the first 13 to 17 months after a ban goes into effect,” says the FDA press release.
Thursday was the court-imposed deadline for the FDA to respond to a 2013 citizen petition advocating the ban.
Public health organizations like the American Medical Association are also supporting the decision to ban mints for the same reasons cited by the FDA, with data showing their disproportionate impact on the health of racial minorities and young people.
In total, about 20 million Americans smoke menthols, according to the FDA.
Supporters of the ban told CBS News that the decision whether or not to continue the ban ultimately rests with President Biden.
The ban on menthol cigarettes also enjoys Democratic support in Congress. Illinois Senator Dick Durbin and Representatives Raja Krishnamoorthi and Bobby Rush recently argued that the FDA has a “duty” to ban mints. “These failures to protect children, especially African American children, from a path to drug addiction are inexcusable,” they told the administration.
Last year, the House passed a bill banning all flavored e-cigarettes and mints, but the bill did not wipe out the Senate.
This is not the first time that flavored cigarettes have been banned, since the FDA banned other flavored cigarettes in 2009.
The bans will not be put in place immediately, as they go through a rule-making process that can take years and then could face legal challenges from the industry.
Matthew Myers, chair of the Campaign for Tobacco Free Children, said the move would be “historic” in protecting children from tobacco addiction and advancing health equity, especially among black Americans. He told CBS News in a statement Wednesday. “It has the potential to be the strongest action our nation has ever taken to reduce the number of children who start smoking and the number of Americans who are sick and killed by tobacco.”
Concerns remain about the possible unintended consequences of a menthol ban.
In one letter obtained by CBS News on Monday, the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) and dozens of other criminal justice groups expressed concern that a ban on menthol cigarettes would have “serious implications for racial justice” because of criminal penalties that would disproportionately impact people of color. “
However, if the ban is implemented, the FDA has said that individual users will not be affected. “[E]Enforcement of any ban on menthol cigarettes and all flavored cigars will only affect manufacturers, distributors, wholesalers, importers and retailers, ”the FDA statement said. The FDA cannot and will not enforce possession or use of menthol cigarettes or any tobacco by a consumer. product.”