Biden administration plans an immediate ban on menthol cigarettes

Studies prove that such bans will help people quit smoking, especially those disproportionately affected by menthol cigarettes.

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Image Credit: Mira Laing/Special to S.F. Examiner

The Biden administration announced a plan to ban menthol cigarettes and flavored cigars effective immediately. Studies prove that such bans will help people quit smoking, especially those disproportionately affected by menthol cigarettes.

“Banning menthol—the last allowable flavor—in cigarettes and banning all flavors in cigars will help save lives, particularly among those disproportionately affected by these deadly products,” Janet Woodcock, M.D., acting Food and Drug Administration Commissioner, said. “With these actions, the FDA will help significantly reduce youth initiation, increase the chances of smoking cessation among current smokers, and address health disparities experienced by communities of color, low-income populations, and LGBTQ+ individuals, all of whom are far more likely to use these tobacco products.”

The Food and Drug Administration said menthol makes tobacco more palatable and “facilitates progression to regular smoking, particularly among youth and young adults.”

“One study suggests that banning menthol cigarettes in the U.S. would lead an additional 923,000 smokers to quit, including 230,000 African Americans in the first 13 to 17 months after a ban goes into effect,” an FDA statement said.

The bans aim to “launch us on a trajectory toward ending tobacco-related disease and death in the U.S.,” Woodcock said.

“There is not an open question on whether menthol in cigarettes is harmful—the evidence is overwhelming and consistent,” Joelle Lester, director of commercial tobacco control programs at the Public Health Law Center at Mitchell Hamline School of Law in Minnesota, said.

The FDA’s plan to ban menthol cigarettes and flavored cigars within the next year is a “move the tobacco industry has pushed against for the last decade,” experts from the University of Michigan said.

“The move is definitely encouraging—but before we fall head-over-heels in a rapturous response, we need to recognize that the actual implementation of the regulations, should it ever occur, is years into the future,” Ken Warner, Avedis Donabedian Distinguished University Professor Emeritus and Dean Emeritus at the School of Public Health, University of Michigan, said. “Industry analysts uniformly concluded that … any outcome will take many years. Tellingly, the cigarette companies’ stock prices hardly budged in response to the news.”

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