FDA Makes Big Move to Curb Smoking

Agency announces plan to ban menthol cigarettes
By Rob Quinn,  Newser Staff
Posted Apr 28, 2021 2:16 PM CDT
Updated Apr 28, 2022 11:05 AM CDT
Feds Are Preparing Plan to Ban Menthol Cigarettes
Cigarette butts and residue fill a smoking receptacle outside a federal building on Capitol Hill.   (AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite)

Update: The FDA on Thursday made one of its biggest moves in more than a decade to curb smoking by unveiling a plan to ban menthol cigarettes, reports the New York Times. Now comes a 60-day period for public comments, followed by any needed revisions. It could be at least a year before the rule takes effect, at which point it's expected to have the biggest impact on Black smokers, most of whom use menthols. Our original story from April 2021 follows:

When the Food and Drug Administration started regulating tobacco products in 2009, it promptly banned flavored cigarettes—just not the flavor preferred by the vast majority of Black smokers. The Biden administration is now planning to propose a ban on menthol cigarettes as well, a move that both antismoking and civil rights groups have long pushed for, the Washington Post reports. The FDA says more than 85% of Black smokers prefer menthol cigarettes, compared to 46% of Hispanic smokers and 29% of white smokers. The FDA says across all races, more than half of smokers 12 to 17 years old choose menthol. Advocates of a menthol ban say Black communities have been aggressively targeted by tobacco companies promoting menthols, which researchers say are more addictive.

Sources tell Politico that the plan to ban menthol cigarettes will be released Thursday—the court-ordered deadline for the FDA to respond to a 2013 citizen petition from public health groups seeking a ban. The issue has long been stalled by opposition from the tobacco industry and lawmakers from tobacco-growing states. Trump-era FDA Commissioner Scott Gottlieb ended up leaving the administration months after proposing a menthol ban in 2018. The Post notes that the Biden administration has the authority to ban menthol cigarettes without going through Congress, though the ban will probably take years to implement. (More menthol cigarettes stories.)

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