The Biden Administration is poised to ban menthol cigarettes and flavored cigars in the United States, citing their disproportionate harm to Black Americans.
The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) sent the ban to the White House for review last week, marking the last step in the approval process. Advocates say that the policy will lower the amount of deaths from smoking each year, particularly among Black Americans.
“These rules represent truly historic action to drive down tobacco use,” Yolonda Richardson, president and CEO of Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids, said in a statement. “Once implemented, they will protect kids from tobacco addiction, advance health equity and save hundreds of thousands of lives, especially Black lives.”
Over one-third of cigarettes sold in the United States are menthol, the CDC reports, and they are known to be harder to quit than other tobacco products.
According to the 2022 National Youth Tobacco Survey, e-cigarettes are the most popular tobacco product among high school students. The second most popular product is cigars, which are especially popular among Black high school students. Of those who smoke cigarettes, nearly 40 percent use menthol.
E-Cigarettes endanger teens
A 2022 study published in BMJ found that prohibiting menthol cigarettes would save up to 654,000 lives within 40 years, including the lives of 255,000 Black Americans. Black Americans account for over one-third of the lives that would be saved.
Recent analysis from researchers at the Council on Foreign Relations found that within five years, a ban on menthol cigarettes would erase the disparity in lung cancer death rates between Black Americans and other racial groups in the United States. The gap is currently expected to close within 30 years.
"The faster these rules are finalized and implemented, the faster we can stop the tobacco industry’s lethal targeting of Black and other communities, the more kids we will prevent from smoking, and the more lives we will save," Richardson concluded.
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