HomeHealth ResourcesFDA Seeks to Ban Menthol Cigarettes - Could Save Thousands of Lives

FDA Seeks to Ban Menthol Cigarettes – Could Save Thousands of Lives

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The FDA is proposing a ban on menthol cigarettes in the United States. The ban will potentially reduce smoking, improve the health of hundreds of thousands of Americans, and save many lives. Menthol cigarettes are estimated to generate more than $20 billion in annual sales.

FDA Commissioner, Dr. Robert Califf, said in a Senate hearing, “Through careful consideration of the scientific evidence and our authorities under the Tobacco Control Act, we’ve determined that these actions are appropriate for protection of the public health.”

The proposed ban does not refer to e-cigarettes (vaping). 

According to the CDC, menthol is added to cigarettes to make the taste more pleasing. Menthol cigarettes are more appealing to young people. They are just as addictive and potentially dangerous as non-flavored cigarettes. 

Federal law says tobacco manufacturers are not allowed to sell flavored cigarettes, unless they taste like menthol.Almost 19 million people are said to smoke menthol-flavored cigarettes in the US. About 40% are women and 31% are men, according to the FDA. The CDC reports that half of youngsters who smoke use menthol cigarettes. 

Advocates for the public health have been fighting for a menthol ban for a long time. The Tobacco Control Act of 2009 gave the FDA the authority to regulate cigarettes and other tobacco products, but menthol was still allowed. Since then, public health groups have attempted to get the FDA to ban menthol, with no success. 

The ban will likely be fought in court by the tobacco industry and advocates for the industry, and could take years to implement.

The CDC reports that menthol cigarettes have been strongly marketed to black smokers, and that black men have the highest rates of lung cancer in the US.  Studies show that about 85% of black smokers use menthol cigarettes, in contrast to 29% of white smokers. 

Taking the example of Canada, which banned menthol cigarettes in 2017, the US could potentially save thousands of lives, and over a million people might stop smoking. When Canada banned menthol cigarettes, 59% of menthol smokers switched to regular cigarettes, but 20% quit smoking.

Dr. Scott Gottlieb, former FDA commissioner, tried to initiate a menthol ban in 2018, but was unable to before he left the agency. 

There is a lot of support for the ban, including medical associations, public health advocates and groups concerned with the health of black Americans. For example, the NAACP supports the ban and denies receiving contributions from the tobacco industry.

The tobacco industry and lobbyists are concerned about lost revenue, and business groups warned the Biden administration that billions of dollars in tax revenue could be lost, due to the tax on cigarettes currently in place. 

It is clear that the ban, if accomplished, could have a huge effect on the tobacco industry, mortality rates and the health of many Americans. 

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