However, not all groups are on board. The ACLU and several other organizations have written to the country’s top health officials urging them to reconsider their decision.
“Such a ban will result in criminal penalties that will disproportionately impact people of color, and prioritize criminalization over public health and harm reduction,” the letter said. “A ban will also lead to unconstitutional police operations and other negative interactions with local law enforcement.”
The letter calls the proposed ban “well-intentioned,” but says any effort to reduce tobacco-related deaths and illnesses “must avoid solutions that will create another reason for armed police to engage citizens on the streets. under a pretext or a behavior which does not pose a problem. a threat to public safety. “
Instead of a ban, the organizations said, policymakers should consider increased education for adults and minors, smoking cessation programs and increased funding for health centers in communities of color.
The Biden administration, however, has insisted that banning menthol will bring many benefits. Acting FDA Commissioner Janet Woodcock, MD, said in a statement that the menthol ban “will help dramatically reduce youth initiation, increase the odds of smoking cessation in current smokers, and address 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. “
The FDA cited data showing that in the first year or so after a ban went into effect, 923,000 more smokers would quit, including 230,000 African Americans. Another study suggests that 633,000 deaths would be avoided, including 237,000 black Americans.
Woodcock added that, “Armed with solid scientific evidence, and with the full support of the [Biden] government, we believe these actions will set us on a path to ending tobacco-related illness and death in the United States.
The FDA estimates that 18.6 million Americans who currently smoke use menthol cigarettes, with a disproportionately high number being blacks.Menthol cigarette consumption among black and Hispanic youth increased from 2011 to 2018, but declined for non-Hispanic white youth.
Mass-produced flavored cigars and cigarillos are disproportionately popular among young people, especially black non-Hispanic high school students, who in 2020 reported having smoked cigars in the past 30 days at twice the levels of their counterparts whites, the FDA said. Three quarters of 12 to 17 year olds say they smoke cigars because they like the flavors. In 2020, more young people tried a cigar every day than trying a cigarette, the agency reports.