The U.S. Food and Drug Administration can be “working toward issuing proposed product standards within the next year” to ban menthol cigarettes, it revealed on Thursday.
The ban goals to “reduce tobacco addiction and curb deaths” and “address health disparities,” the FDA stated in a press release.
Acting FDA Commissioner Janet Woodcock stated on Thursday: “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.
“Armed with robust scientific proof, and with full assist from the [Biden] Administration, we consider these actions will launch us on a trajectory towards ending tobacco-related illness and loss of life within the U.S.”
The announcement follows a lawsuit filed against the FDA last June by the African American Tobacco Control Leadership Council, the group Action on Smoking and Health, the American Medical Association and the National Medical Association.
The lawsuit claimed that the council and the other three groups had “repeatedly known as for FDA to meet its statutory responsibility to re-evaluate tobacco product requirements and take up a rule to ban menthol cigarettes. FDA has failed to take action, refusing even to resolve a Citizen’s Petition … filed greater than seven years in the past.”
The petition calling for a menthol ban had been filed in 2013 by 19 public well being organizations.
The lawsuit added: “FDA’s delay, inaction, and failure ‘to move quickly’ has been devastating, leading to millions of people initiating smoking cigarettes, and thousands of premature deaths.”
Woodcock stated on Thursday: “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.”
Xavier Becerra, the well being and human providers secretary, stated in a press release on Thursday: “This science-based decision reflects the Biden Administration’s commitment to improve the health of all Americans and to tackle health disparities in our most marginalized communities.”
Impact of menthol cigarettes
The FDA stated on Thursday: “Menthol masks unpleasant flavors and harshness of tobacco products, making them easier to start using. Tobacco products with menthol can also be more addictive and harder to quit by enhancing the effects of nicotine.”
There are presently round 18.6 million menthol cigarette people who smoke within the U.S. Among all Black people who smoke, almost 85 p.c smoke menthol cigarettes, whereas 30 p.c of white people who smoke use menthol cigarettes, based on the FDA.
The American Medical Association says smoking-related diseases are the main causes of loss of life amongst African Americans.
After the ban was introduced, the affiliation stated: “A report by a committee of the FDA concluded that if menthol cigarettes had been removed from the marketplace in 2010, then (a) by 2020, roughly 17,000 premature deaths would have been avoided and about 2.3 million people would not have started smoking. It is critical to ban menthol now.”
Phillip Gardiner, co-chair of the African American Tobacco Control Leadership Council, stated on Wednesday: “Smoking rates are going down, but people’s use of menthol is not. Who’s being left in the market are menthol smokers. They’ve been predatorily marketing these products to the African American community.”
Delmonte Jefferson, government director of the Center for Black Health & Equity, informed NBC earlier this week: “Menthol is just another example of the health inequities that have plagued African Americans for generations.”
What supporters say
The well being teams that filed the lawsuit have all welcomed the FDA announcement.
In a press release on Thursday, Action on Smoking and Health stated: “After more than a decade of inaction from the federal government on menthol, the Biden Administration acted quickly and definitively to prioritize Black lives and to make progress towards ending the institutionalized racism African Americans face as a result of menthol cigarettes.
“While a menthol ban doesn’t go into fast impact, our hope for a greater, brighter, and more healthy tomorrow begins right now.”
In a joint statement with ASH, Gardiner said: “The AATCLC strongly encourages that tobacco management activists all through the nation proceed to struggle to ban the sale of menthol tobacco merchandise on the native, state and federal stage.
“We know that this rule-making process could take years and we know that the tobacco industry will continue to do everything in their power to derail any attempt to remove their deadly products from the market.”
What others say
In a press release shared with Newsweek on Friday, a spokesperson for British American Tobacco, one of many world’s largest tobacco firms, stated: “The published science does not support regulating menthol cigarettes differently from non-menthol.
“The scientific proof neither exhibits a distinction in well being dangers between a menthol and a non-menthol cigarette, nor does it assist that menthol cigarettes adversely have an effect on initiation, dependence or cessation.
“BAT’s US subsidiary, Reynolds American Inc. will evaluate any proposed regulation and will participate in any consultation and the rule-making process by submitting robust, science-based evidence.
“Our company objective is obvious: to scale back the well being impression of our enterprise by way of our multi-category portfolio of scientifically substantiated lowered threat merchandise.”
Imperial Brands, another large international tobacco company, said in a statement: “There is not any conclusive science to assist a ban on menthol,” adding that it expected most menthol smokers to switch to other cigarettes. “We wouldn’t due to this fact anticipate any important impression on our U.S. enterprise.”
Newsweek has also contacted the tobacco companies Altria and R.J. Reynolds for comment.
The American Civil Liberties Union has raised concerns that a ban would “foster an underground market” for menthol cigarettes and “disproportionately impression Black and Brown communities.”
Aamra Ahmad, a senior legislative counsel at the ACLU, said on Wednesday: “There are critical considerations that the ban carried out by the Biden administration will finally foster an underground market that’s positive to set off prison penalties which can disproportionately impression folks of shade and prioritize criminalization over public well being and hurt discount.
“At this pivotal moment, as the public demands an end to police violence erupting from minor offenses, we call on the Biden administration to rethink its approach and employ harm reduction strategies over a ban that will lead to criminalization.”
In its announcement on Thursday, the FDA stated the “enforcement of any ban on menthol cigarettes and all flavored cigars will only address manufacturers, distributors, wholesalers, importers and retailers.
“The FDA can’t and won’t implement in opposition to particular person client possession or use of menthol cigarettes or any tobacco product.”
Newsweek has contacted the FDA, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the World Health Organization for comment.
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