‘The Last Allowable Flavor’—FDA Moves to Ban Menthols

After years of debate, the FDA announced yesterday that it intends to ban menthol cigarettes and flavored cigars. 

The main goal: Address the products’ disproportionate targeting to communities of color, Axios reports

  • Almost 85% of Black smokers use menthols, compared with 30% of white smokers, NPR reports.

Why now? Yesterday was the FDA’s deadline to respond to a 2013 citizen petition seeking the ban—which could take years to implement. 

Global precedent: Canada, Brazil, Ethiopia, and the European Union have already banned menthol cigarettes, notes the American Medical Association.

The exception: Menthol-flavored e-cigarettes are not part of the ban.

Big tobacco's take: Prohibition doesn’t work, and it’s better to support noncombustible alternatives “that are attractive to adult smokers,” said Altria spokesman George Parman.
The ACLU is also against the ban, saying it will drive an underground market and criminal penalties that again, disproportionately impact people of color.

Devil's in the details: “If you squeeze in one area, the balloon — the tobacco industry — is just going to expand into some other area,” cautions the Bloomberg School’s Joanna Cohen. “So you have to really be thoughtful and comprehensive whenever you do one of these things, because if you're not careful, it moves the problem.”

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