FDA says it will ban menthol cigarettes and all flavored cigars within a year

The Food and Drug Administration said Thursday that it will propose a policy to ban menthol cigarettes and all flavored cigars within a year.

The agency released the plan in response to a court-ordered deadline. It has long faced calls to act on menthol cigarettes, which are disproportionately smoked by Black Americans and teens just starting to use tobacco.

Anti-tobacco groups applauded the move, but some questioned why it would take so long to formulate a rule mulled by the agency for years already.

“By combining action against menthol cigarettes with flavored cigars, the FDA will be targeting like a laser beam the products that have the primary role of increasing youth use,” said Matt Myers, president of the Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids. “The one flaw is this cannot take a year to issue a notice of proposed rulemaking. Timing is everything; it is critical that the FDA move forward rapidly, both to start the process and to finish it.”

Momentum for banning menthol cigarettes has grown over the past several years, with lawmakers and public health groups pointing to decades of targeted marketing toward Black communities. More than 85 percent of Black Americans who smoke report using menthol products. But critics of the ban argue that it will trigger a black market that could exacerbate over-policing and violence against those communities.

“Banning menthol — the last allowable flavor — in cigarettes and banning all flavors in cigars will help save lives, particularly among those disproportionately affected by these deadly products,” acting FDA Commissioner Janet Woodcock said in a statement.

A study cited by FDA suggests that banning menthol cigarettes in the U.S. would lead roughly 923,000 smokers to quit, including 230,000 Black Americans, in the first year and a half. Another study projects that 633,000 tobacco-related deaths would be averted.

While cigarette use has steadily fallen over recent years, menthol use has declined more slowly. Menthol helps mask the harshness found in other cigarettes.

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The Food and Drug Administration said Thursday that it will propose a policy to ban menthol cigarettes and all flavored cigars within a year.

The agency released the plan in response to a court-ordered deadline. It has long faced calls to act on menthol cigarettes, which are disproportionately smoked by Black Americans and teens just starting to use tobacco.

Anti-tobacco groups applauded the move, but some questioned why it would take so long to formulate a rule mulled by the agency for years already.

“By combining action against menthol cigarettes with flavored cigars, the FDA will be targeting like a laser beam the products that have the primary role of increasing youth use,” said Matt Myers, president of the Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids. “The one flaw is this cannot take a year to issue a notice of proposed rulemaking. Timing is everything; it is critical that the FDA move forward rapidly, both to start the process and to finish it.”

Momentum for banning menthol cigarettes has grown over the past several years, with lawmakers and public health groups pointing to decades of targeted marketing toward Black communities. More than 85 percent of Black Americans who smoke report using menthol products. But critics of the ban argue that it will trigger a black market that could exacerbate over-policing and violence against those communities.

“Banning menthol — the last allowable flavor — in cigarettes and banning all flavors in cigars will help save lives, particularly among those disproportionately affected by these deadly products,” acting FDA Commissioner Janet Woodcock said in a statement.

A study cited by FDA suggests that banning menthol cigarettes in the U.S. would lead roughly 923,000 smokers to quit, including 230,000 Black Americans, in the first year and a half. Another study projects that 633,000 tobacco-related deaths would be averted.

While cigarette use has steadily fallen over recent years, menthol use has declined more slowly. Menthol helps mask the harshness found in other cigarettes.

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