The FDA has proposed a rule to ban menthol cigarettes and flavored cigars in an effort to cut down on tobacco-related disease and death.
The Food and Drug Administration believes that eliminating the flavored products will deter children from wanting to smoke. Over half a million young people in the U.S. use flavored cigars such as cocoa, strawberry, or fruit punch. Under the new rule, the FDA would ban these flavors as they did with flavored cigarettes in 2009 under the Tobacco Control Act. Menthol is the last special flavor allowed in cigarettes in the country. Menthol interacts with nicotine in the brain, enhancing the components’ addictive properties. This is one reason why it’s harder for people to quit. FDA Commissioner Dr. Robert Califf said the rule was presented after “careful consideration of the scientific evidence.”
“The proposed product standards would, among other things, improve the health and reduce the mortality risk of current smokers of menthol cigarettes or flavored cigars,” Califf added.
After the 2009 Tobacco Control Act got rid of flavored cigarettes, many smokers, especially young ones, transitioned to “kid-friendly” flavored cigars. According to the agency, over 74% of kids between ages 12 and 17 admitted they smoked cigars because they were available in flavors.
Completely ridding flavor tobacco products will likely have a detrimental impact on the industry as a whole. Menthol cigarettes account for more than a third of the cigarette market in the United States. While supporters of the flavor ban are leaning on the possible health benefits, critics believe this will only fuel illegal cigarette sales. Several Black leaders, such as the Rev. Al Sharpton, are also concerned about the potential negative interactions between police and people of color who are suspected of illegally selling flavored cigarettes or cigars.
The public may share their thoughts on the rule from May 4th through July 5th. The FDA will hold public hearing sessions on June 13th and June 15th. After this process, the agency will make its final judgment, though legal hurdles will likely arise.