The U.S. Food and Drug Administration said it plans to ban menthol cigarettes and flavored cigars to significantly reduce disease and death from using combusted tobacco products, the major cause of preventable death in the U.S.
The regulator said it is advancing two tobacco product standards, which will be issued within the next year to ban menthol as a characterizing flavor in cigarettes and ban all characterizing flavors, including menthol, in cigars.
The proposed ban will address only manufacturers, distributors, wholesalers, importers and retailers, and not against individual consumer possession or use of menthol cigarettes or any tobacco product.
The FDA had banned other flavored cigarettes in 2009.
Acting FDA Commissioner Janet Woodcock 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.”
In the U.S., it is estimated that there are nearly 18.6 million current smokers of menthol cigarettes. According to the agency, nearly 74 percent of youth aged 12-17 who use cigars say they smoke cigars because they come in flavors they enjoy.
As per certain studies, menthol increases the appeal of tobacco and facilitates progression to regular smoking, particularly among youth and young adults. 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.
One study showed that banning menthol cigarettes in the U.S. would lead an additional 923,000 smokers to quit. This includes 230,000 African Americans in the first 13 to 17 months after a ban goes into effect.
Another study projected that about 633,000 deaths would be averted, including about 237,000 deaths averted for African Americans.
The FDA will publish the proposed rules in the Federal Register allowing an opportunity for public comment.
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