By Staff

(CBSDFW.COM) – The Food and Drug Administration announced Thursday it will begin the process of banning menthol tobacco cigarettes, as well as all flavored cigars.

Menthol is used in tobacco products to create a cooling sensation in the throat, masking the nicotine and making it easier to inhale the smoke.

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“Removing menthol cigarettes from the market will profoundly impact cancer diagnoses and mortality and reduce cancer disparities,” said Peter WT Pisters, M.D., president of The University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center. “It will protect the health of some of our most vulnerable populations, who may decide to quit or not begin smoking as a result of this decision.”

One study suggests that banning menthol cigarettes in the U.S. would lead an additional 923,000 smokers to quit, including 230,000 African Americans in the first 13 to 17 months after a ban goes into effect. An earlier study projected that about 633,000 deaths would be averted, including about 237,000 deaths averted for African Americans.

“This science-based decision reflects the Biden Administration’s commitment to improve the health of all Americans and to tackle health disparities in our most marginalized communities,” said Secretary of Health and Human Services Xavier Becerra in a statement.

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In 2019, menthol cigarette brands constituted 37% of the cigarette market, an all-time high, according to MD Anderson. More than 19.5 million people currently smoke menthol cigarettes, which have a disproportionate impact on minorities and young adults:

  • More than half of youth smokers, including 70% of young Black users, smoke menthol cigarettes.
  • Among adults, the vast majority (85.8%) of Black smokers use mentholated brands, compared to 46% of Hispanic smokers, 39% of Asian smokers and 28.7% of white smokers.

“With these actions, the FDA will help significantly reduce youth initiation, increase the chances of smoking cessation among current smokers, and address health disparities experienced by communities of color, low-income populations, and LGBTQ+ individuals, all of whom are far more likely to use these tobacco products,” acting FDA Commissioner Dr. Janet Woodcock said in a statement. “Together, these actions represent powerful, science-based approaches that will have an extraordinary public health impact.”

If implemented, the FDA’s enforcement of any ban on menthol cigarettes and all flavored cigars will only address manufacturers, distributors, wholesalers, importers and retailers. The agency cannot and will not enforce against individual consumer possession or use of menthol cigarettes or any tobacco product.

The 2009 Tobacco Control Act (TCA) did not include menthol in its ban on characterizing flavors in cigarettes, leaving menthol cigarettes as the only flavored combusted cigarettes still marketed in the U.S.

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Anyone seeking smoking cessation support can call the National Quitline at 1-800-QUIT-NOW. Staff