The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) is looking to ban the sales of menthol cigarettes and all flavored cigars. This is in the hopes to lessen smoking in the youth, as well as to attempt to reduce tobacco-related fatalities, which happens to be the ‘leading cause of preventable death in the United States.’
In a statement released last April 28, the secretary of Health and Human Services, Xavier Becerra announced that proposed rule changes, “The proposed rules would help prevent children from becoming the next generation of smokers and help adult smokers quit.”
According to the FDA, menthol is known for it’s ‘cool, minty taste and aroma,’ which is what counteracts the harshness and irritation that comes with smoking. But it’s precisely this type of flavor additive that makes it easier for individuals to start smoking, while making cigarettes more appealing to the younger generation. Moreover, menthol also enhances the addictive properties of nicotine, which also makes it harder for people to quit.
In the United States, there are 18.5 million smokers that are aged 12 years and older that used menthol cigarettes in the year 2019, notes the FDA. By eliminating menthol from cigars and cigarettes, this could actually lead to a ’15 percent reduction in the number of smokers in the nation within 40 years,’ which also translates to around 654,000 fewer smoking-related fatalities.
These statistics would also mean that around 238,000 of those deaths that would be prevented would be among the Black smokers, whom the FDA share ‘disproportionately favor menthol cigarettes.’ In fact, around 85 percent of the Black smokers prefer menthol products as compared to the 30 percent of white smokers, according to the FDA.
Becerra shared, “The proposed rules represent an important step to advance health equity by significantly reducing tobacco-related health disparities.”
For more than a decade, law makers and regulators have argued over the restrictions on menthol products. While officials have banned special flavors in the Tobacco Control Act since 2009, they still allowed menthol to remain on the market, mostly because of their concert about how legal repercussions could ‘disproportionately impact Black people.’
However, under the newly proposed menthol policy, individual smokers won’t be penalized for the use of menthol cigarettes, while the FDA noted that local law enforcement agencies are still not empowered to enforce these FDA regulations just yet. The FDA also said that their enforcement efforts won’t target the consumers, but rather the manufacturers and sellers of menthol products instead.
Before they are finalized, these proposed rules will still be subject to public comment. The FDA will post the details for listening sessions and opportunities for public comments on their website accordingly.