The Food and Drug Administration sent its final proposal to the White House that would ban the sale of menthol cigarettes and flavored cigars.
The debate over the ban has gone on for over 18 months, but the FDA has said the flavors are added to tobacco products to improve taste by reducing the harshness, bitterness and astringency.
The FDA estimates that 18.6 million people smoke menthol cigarettes. The agency notes that Black smokers are much more likely than White smokers to use menthol cigarettes. The FDA estimates that nearly 85% of Black smokers use menthol cigarettes, compared to 30.3% of White smokers.
The American Lung Association applauded the FDA's actions and urged the Biden administration to adopt the proposed rule.
“The science and data are clear. Ending the sale of menthol cigarettes and flavored cigars will save lives. It will also help reduce the unjust disparities in tobacco use caused by the tobacco companies targeting certain communities with menthol cigarettes," wrote American Lung Association President Harold Wimmer. "Research shows that ending the sale of menthol cigarettes would result in a significant number of people quitting smoking."
Researchers from the International Tobacco Control Policy Evaluation noted that in the five-year period after Canada banned menthol cigarettes, menthol smokers were more likely than non-menthol smokers to have quit smoking among daily smokers. They estimated in 2022 that 789,724 daily smokers would quit if the U.S. implemented a menthol cigarette ban.
In 2009, the FDA banned many other flavors of cigarettes, such as cherry and chocolate, that could be considered attractive to children. The FDA noted that these flavors, however, are not banned from other tobacco products.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said more than 480,000 deaths are tied to cigarettes in the U.S. annually, including 41,000 tied to secondhand smoke. The CDC says the life expectancy for smokers is at least 10 years shorter than for nonsmokers.
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