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The FDA proposes a ban on menthol cigarettes and flavored cigars




“The proposed product standards will, among other things, improve the health and reduce the mortality risk for current smokers of flavored cigarettes or cigars by reducing their consumption significantly and increasing the likelihood of cessation. This is another important step in the agency’s efforts to combat youth tobacco use and promote equal health. “

This landmark proposal could have a major impact on public health, experts said.

“I want to emphasize the significant aspect of this. It will be a game changer,” Erika Sward, vice president of national advocacy for the American Lung Association, said Thursday. “The rules will have a huge impact on stopping children from starting to use tobacco and critically saving lives for people, especially from different backgrounds.”[ads1];

Long come

Menthol is a stock problem that the FDA has been assessing for more than a decade. It is the last special flavor allowed in cigarettes in the United States. It was cut by the 2009 Tobacco Control Act, which banned all other flavored cigarettes and gave the FDA the authority to regulate the tobacco industry to protect public health. The law also required the FDA to conduct and fund research on menthol.
After years of FDA investigations and public input from hundreds of thousands of interested parties, the Public Health Law Center and other groups filed a citizens’ petition asking the agency to ban menthol in cigarettes. A lawsuit from 2020 claimed that the FDA unreasonably delayed giving a final answer. In 2021, the FDA announced that it would pursue regulations.
Around 18.6 million people smoke menthol in the United States. That’s about 36% of all smokers, according to the FDA, and a disproportionate number are colored.

A share issue

The tobacco industry has largely marketed menthol products to color communities and other minority groups.

About 30% of white smokers choose menthol, but they are the preferred cigarette for almost 85% of black smokers. About 40% of women smoke menthol, compared to 31% of men, according to the FDA.
LGBTQ people are also significantly more likely to smoke menthol. A 2013 study looking at data from the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention 2009-10 National Adult Tobacco Survey found that 36% of LGBTQ smokers chose menthol, compared to 29.3% of those who smoked.
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“Today marks the beginning of the end of menthol cigarettes – a truly historic moment for public health. For decades, tobacco companies have deliberately pushed menthol cigarettes to hook young people on their deadly products and implemented racist marketing practices to deliberately target black Americans; the resulting health consequences has been devastating, “said Dr. Julie Morita, executive director of the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, in a statement.

More than half of children who smoke use menthol cigarettes, according to the CDC. A survey among adults who smoke found that the majority started with menthol. Other studies said that children who smoked menthol cigarettes were more likely to become regular smokers than occasional smokers.

“The proposed rules will help prevent children from becoming next-generation smokers and help adult smokers quit,” Health and Human Services Secretary Xavier Becerra said in a statement Thursday. “In addition, the proposed rules represent an important step in promoting fair health by significantly reducing tobacco-related health disparities.”

Banning menthol cigarettes and flavored cigars could save hundreds of thousands of lives, experts say
The smoking rate in the US reached a record low level in 2018, according to the CDC, but smoking is still the most important cause of preventable death, illness and disability in the country. In general, cigarette smoking is responsible for more than 480,000 deaths per year in the United States, including more than 41,000 deaths from passive smoking.
Cutting out menthol in cigarettes and cigars could have a significant effect on the number of smokers, the FDA said. At one estimate, it could even prevent 650,000 premature deaths over the next 40 years.
Another study estimates that eliminating menthol as a cigarette flavor will cause 923,000 people, including 230,000 African Americans, to quit smoking in the first year and a half.

A transition to flavored cigars

After the 2009 Tobacco Control Act banned flavored cigarettes, many smokers who preferred flavors – especially children – may have switched to flavored cigars, including menthol and “child-friendly” flavors such as fruit punch, strawberries and grapes.

The FDA said that the use of flavored cigars “increased dramatically” and that public health goals may have been “undermined” by the availability of these products. More than half a million young people in the United States smoke flavored cigars, according to the FDA.

More than 2.5 million students were current users of tobacco products last year, the survey shows

Flavored cigars and cigarillos are especially popular with children, especially black and Hispanic children, who are twice as likely to smoke them as their white classmates.

The FDA noted that a study found that nearly 74% of teens 12 to 17 said they smoked cigars because they came in flavors they liked.

In 2020, more young people said they tried a cigar every day than they tried a cigarette.

“A ban on menthol cigarettes and flavored cigars will mark a historic turning point in the decades-long fight against tobacco use and the epidemic of tobacco-related diseases,” Nancy Brown, executive director of the American Heart Association, said in a statement Thursday. “The science is clear: Menthol cigarettes have a negative impact on public health and have no public health benefits compared to non-menthol cigarettes. They increase the likelihood and degree of addiction among young smokers, and increase the number of premature deaths from tobacco use. Removing them from the market would have enormous benefits to public health in this country. “

Individual consumers would not be prosecuted

If passed, the FDA was careful to note that the rule would only apply to tobacco companies and industry. The agency, as well as state and local law enforcement, do not independently enforce FDA rules.

The proposed rule will not penalize individual consumers for having menthol products.

Some activists, such as Pastor Al Sharpton and The mothers of the movementhas warned that a ban on menthol products could lead to more violent encounters with police when enforcing the rule.
Anti-smoking advocates have found that Sharpton and some other civil rights organizations have been receiving money from cigarette manufacturers for decades. Sharpton admitted to the New York Times in 2019 that Reynolds American has been a longtime donor to his National Action Network, but said that “this is not about money.”

Other groups, such as the NAACP and many members of the Congressional Black Caucus, are in favor of a ban.

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“Targeting and marketing menthol flavors from the tobacco industry has had a devastating impact on our society. Menthol flavor cigarettes have provoked many children and adults, resulting in lifelong addiction, health challenges and ultimately killing our loved ones,” the NAACP said in a statement. “Today is a great victory for justice, fairness and public health.”

The FDA said Thursday that it “recognizes concerns about how state and local law enforcement can enforce their own laws in a way that could affect justice and community safety, especially for underserved and underrepresented communities. The FDA is seeking comments on, among other things, how it can best clarify the respective roles of the Agency and state and local law enforcement, as well as political considerations related to potential racial and social justice implications of the proposed product standards. “

Califf said this is something the agency will address more in the future.

“We take these concerns seriously,” he said. “Let us make one thing very clear. These measures and associated enforcement will be on the tobacco industry, not individuals who own or use these products.”

Next: Public comment period

An FDA ban on menthol and flavored cigars will not take effect immediately.

The next step will be a comment period that will run from May 4 to July 5. The FDA will also hold public listening sessions on June 13 and 15.

The agency is then expected to take the time to review the comments before a rule is finally adopted.

The rule enters into force one year after the final version is published. Public health experts are confident that tobacco companies will also try to stop the ban by suing the agency, as the companies have done with previous tobacco control legislation.

“This is not trivial,” Califf said. Tobacco-related deaths are high, he noted, and so are tobacco-related diseases.

“My prayer is that we do not lose the sense of urgency,” he said. “Literally, lives can be saved.”





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