HealthDay News — The US Food and Drug Administration on Thursday released proposed rules — first announced a year ago — to ban menthol cigarettes and flavored cigars.
“The proposed rules would help prevent children from becoming the next generation of smokers and help adult smokers quit,” US Department of Health and Human Services Secretary Xavier Becerra said in an FDA news release.
Menthol cigarettes have been marketed aggressively to Black Americans for decades. About 85% of Black smokers use menthol brands compared with 30% of White smokers, the FDA said, and research shows menthol cigarettes are harder to quit than traditional tobacco products.
In 2019, there were more than 18.5 million menthol cigarette smokers aged 12 years and older in the United States, with particularly high rates of use by young people, Black people, and other minorities, the FDA said. Modeling studies have estimated a 15% reduction in smoking within 40 years if menthol cigarettes are no longer available, the agency said, and those same studies estimate that 324,000 to 654,000 smoking-related deaths overall (92,000 to 238,000 among Black Americans) would be avoided during the course of 40 years.
“The FDA has a duty to protect public health with nothing short of ending the sale of all flavored tobacco products,” Nancy Brown, CEO of the American Heart Association, said in a statement. “The American Heart Association and our nationwide network of advocates will relentlessly work with FDA to ensure the final rules are as strong and comprehensive as possible. We urge the agency to quickly issue final rules and remove these harmful products from the market.”
Public comment on the proposed rules starts May 4, and the FDA will also hold public hearings on June 13 and June 15.