The FDA has announced that they will ban the use of menthol in cigarettes and also ban flavors that have menthol in cigars.
The FDA said on Thursday, menthol is the reason why smoking is so easy. It enhances the nicotine effect and thus makes it difficult to quit cigarettes and makes them addictive.
The FDA has been pressurized to ban menthol for many years now by 19 organizations including the American Cancer Society, American Academy of Pediatrics, American Heart Association, American Medical Association, and the National Medical Association. FDA banned flavors in 2009 in cigarettes but menthol remained. In 2013, the organizations petitioned for the FDA to ban menthol and it had responded that it will begin the process for the same.
However, the FDA did not take any action. It was then sued last year by the African American Tobacco Control Leadership Council, Action on Smoking and Health, the NMA, and the AMA. This has led to the FDA finally taking action.
The African American Tobacco Control Leadership Council is happy that the agency has taken action but they believe the war against cigarettes is not yet over. They have urged activists to get menthol banned in tobacco products on a state, local and federal level as well. Phillip Gardiner said, “We know that this rule-making process could take years and we know that the tobacco industry will continue to do everything in their power to derail any attempt to remove their deadly products from the market.” He is the council co-chair and MD.
The FDA has been urged by AMA to be fast in implementing the ban and “without further delay,” remove the items from the market. A statement was released by AMA president Susan R. Bailey who is an MD. The President of the American Cancer Society Cancer Action Network, Lisa Lacasse also released a statement saying, “FDA’s long-awaited decision to take action to eliminate menthol flavoring in cigarettes and all flavors in cigars ends decades-long deference to the tobacco industry, which has repeatedly demonstrated its willingness to profit from products that result in death.FDA’s actions today send a clear message that Big Tobacco’s strategy to profit off addicting Black communities will no longer be tolerated.”
Lisa believes a ban on menthol will reduce health discrepancies. She shared that 46 % of Hispanic people smoke menthol cigarettes, the number is high among Black people where 86% smoke, 39 % with Asian people, and 29% of white people smoke these cigarettes.
Not every group supports this decision. Many organizations including The ACLU have written to America’s best health officials asking them to reconsider. The letter said, “Such a ban will trigger criminal penalties which will disproportionately impact people of color, as well as prioritize criminalization over public health and harm reduction. A ban will also lead to unconstitutional policing and other negative interactions with local law enforcement.”
The letter says the intention behind the ban is good but it says the effort to eliminate disease and death due to tobacco “must avoid solutions that will create yet another reason for armed police to engage citizens on the street based on pretext or conduct that does not pose a threat to public safety.”