The Food and Drug Administration on Thursday announced it would call for a ban on menthol-flavored cigarettes. According to commentators, the move would severely hit future tobacco sales.
Menthol was the last flavor that was allowed for cigarettes. According to the FDA, menthol cigarettes had been used disproportionately by young people, low-income communities and people of color. Menthol cigarettes were very popular with Black smokers, the vast majority of whom favored menthol cigarette brands. Black men currently had the country’s highest lung cancer rates.
FDA To Propose A Ban On Menthol-Flavored Cigarettes
According to Acting FDA Commissioner Janet Woodcock’s statement in a press release, the ban would help FDA significantly in reducing youth initiation. It would also increase the chances of current smokers giving up the habit, and address health disparities seen among low-income populations, communities of color, and LGBTQ+ individuals, all of whom were far more likely to use these tobacco products.
However, according to Jefferies analyst Owen Bennett, it would be years before the proposal reached a conclusion as both sides would need to provide sufficient evidence, which was a difficult proposition.
He added, for menthol it could take years for a final rule to be seen as it would require a watertight evidence package. He added the FDA itself had said in the past there had not been enough evidence. He added major tobacco companies could respond launching a fight back, adding more time.
According to commentators, the decision came after deliberations extending over years from public health officials looking to transition smokers to less harmful methods, including noncombustible products, or kicking the habit altogether.
Menthol cigarette sales made up a third of cigarette sales in the U.S. The leading brands were Newport, owned by R.J. Reynolds of British American Tobacco and Kool, owned by ITG Brands of Imperial Tobacco.
According to Imperial Brands, the decision of the FDA was disappointing but expected.
The company said it believed the rulemaking process would reveal there was no clear scientific evidence to support a federal menthol and flavor ban. It added it was hopeful that FDA would follow the law and prioritize sound policy and science over political pressure.
Altria, which makes the Marlboro cigarettes, warned that the ban might create an illegal market.
The firm added prohibition did not work and it too, was keen on moving people away from cigarettes to alternatives that would be less harmful.
It added criminalizing menthol could likely lead to serious unintended consequences.
According to commentators, the implementation of the proposal would come as a huge win for groups opposed to tobacco who had long considered flavored cigarettes as a way to initiate people into smoking.
According to the FDA, smoking tobacco products had proved to be one of the leading causes of preventable deaths in the country. It had plans for implementing product standards for elimination of menthol in cigarettes within the next year. It also planned to take similar steps for menthol and characterizing flavors, in cigars.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s data showed that in 2019, 14% of all American adults smoked cigarettes.
Although smoking rates across white and Black populations were similar, Black smokers were less likely to kick the habit, which ,according to some, was due to the menthol flavor. They point out that the mint flavor of menthol cooled the throat and made it easier for smokers to develop tolerance for the flavor of tobacco.
The Biden administration, last week also announced that it was considering a cap on levels of nicotine in cigarettes, which was another measure that the FDA had been looking to introduce for years.
Shares of British American Tobacco, parent company of Reynolds fell 2%, while the stock of Altria was down less than 1% in morning trading.