The Food and Drug Administration on Thursday announced it will ban menthol cigarettes and all flavored cigars, The New York Times reports.
The agency intends to ban the manufacturing, import, and sale of the products but will not prohibit personal possession.
“Together, these actions represent powerful, science-based approaches that will have an extraordinary public health impact,” said acting FDA commissioner Dr. Janet Woodcock. “We believe these actions will launch us on a trajectory toward ending tobacco-related disease and death in the U.S.”
Public health experts praised the move.
“We are thrilled that the F.D.A. is taking this important step to protect all citizens, but especially African-Americans, from the deadly impacts of menthol,” Kelsey Romeo-Stuppy, an attorney for Action on Smoking and Health, told the Times.
The agency argues that menthol flavor makes cigarettes more addictive and disproportionately affects African Americans. According to the FDA, about 85% of Black smokers use menthol cigarettes or products.
While the number of smokers has plummeted from 42% of adults in 1960 to 14% today, the rate of Black Americans quitting smoking is less than half of white smokers.
“For far too long, certain populations have been targeted and disproportionately impacted by tobacco companies,” said Mitch Zeller, director of the F.D.A.’s Center for Tobacco Products.
The FDA estimated that its ban would save 633,000 lives by 2050.
Big Tobacco pushing back:
Cigarette manufacturers pushed back on the plan.
“The published science does not support regulating menthol cigarettes differently from nonmenthol,” Kaelan Hollon, a spokeswoman for R.J. Reynolds, told the Times. “The scientific evidence neither shows a difference in health risks between a menthol and a nonmenthol cigarette, nor does it support that menthol cigarettes adversely affect initiation, dependence or cessation.”