The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) recently proposed a ban on the sale of menthol cigarettes and all flavored cigars. This effort aims to curb youth smoking and reduce the amount of tobacco-related fatalities, the leading cause of preventable death in the U.S. Leading health officials and civil rights groups praise this step towards a healthier future. They say that the tobacco industry has aggressively marketed to Black communities and caused severe harm as a result, including higher rates of smoking-related deaths.
A statement from April 28th, 2022, said that the proposed rules should help adult smokers quit. Ideally, banning flavored tobacco products like menthol cigarettes and flavored cigars will prevent children from becoming the next generation of smokers. The evidence is clear that these types of tobacco products establish addictiveness and cause harm. The Family Smoking Prevention and Tobacco Control Act prohibited all characterizing flavors, besides tobacco and menthol, in cigarettes in 2009. They are also aiding the efforts to reducing the death rate from cancer by 50% over the next 25 years.
Although the ban wouldn’t take effect for another couple years, the FDA hopes that the ban will save lives and reduce chronic illness. In the U.S., about 480,000 people per year die from tobacco-related illnesses. The FDA will accept public comments for the next few months and then write a final regulation. Analysts expect that court challenges from the tobacco industry may set back the start date of the ban.
Menthol Cigarette Use In the U.S.
In 2019, 18.5 million American smokers 12 years and older used menthol cigarettes, according to the FDA. The minty taste and aroma can counteract the irritation from standard, unflavored tobacco products. The minty flavor makes it easier for people to start smoking, and it increases the appeal of cigarettes to younger users. Additionally, menthol enhances the addictive properties of nicotine, making it more difficult for smokers to quit.
If the FDA ban on menthol cigarettes and flavored cigars went into effect, it could reduce the amount of people who smoke by 15% within 40 years. That would ultimately result in 654,000 fewer smoking-related deaths. The FDA also notes that up to 238,000 of the prevented deaths would be among Black smokers. Surveys indicated that 85% of Black smokers use menthol products, which exceeds the 30% of white smokers that use menthol products. The proposed rules will hopefully advance health equity by reducing tobacco-related health disparities, according to health experts.
Flavored Cigar Product Standard To Reduce Youth Risk
When companies disguise the flavor of tobacco, smoking becomes more attractive to younger people. Strawberry, grape, cocoa, fruit punch, and menthol flavors make cigars easier to use, especially among youth. Surveys indicate that more than half a million youth in the U.S. use flavored cigars. In recent years, more young people tried a cigar every day than a cigarette. If the ban goes into action, the goal is to reduce the appeal of cigars and cigarettes to youth and young adults. This would decrease the likelihood of experimentation, nicotine dependence, and progression to regular use.
It’s important to understand that the FDA cannot and will not penalize smokers for using menthol cigarettes. Additionally, local law enforcement agencies aren’t empowered to enforce FDA regulations. Instead, the FDA enforcement efforts aims to target manufacturers and sellers of menthol cigarettes and flavored cigars. These rules, however, will be subject to public comment before being finalized. Details about listening sessions and opportunities to comment will be available on the FDA’s website, should you be interested.
In the peer-reviewed journal, Tobacco Control, a study to be published looked at a Canadian menthol ban. If the menthol cigarette ban went into effect in the U.S., more than 1.3 million additional smokers would quit, including the 381,000 African Americans, according to the leader of the study. Let’s see how this unfolds, but we can only hope that it helps reduce tobacco-related illness and death for people in the U.S.