FDA Proposes Ban on Menthol Cigarettes

The proposed rules will be open for public comment.

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Andrew Blok has been an editor at CNET covering HVAC and home energy, with a focus on solar, since October 2021. As an environmental journalist, he navigates the changing energy landscape to help people make smart energy decisions. He's a graduate of the Knight Center for Environmental Journalism at Michigan State and has written for several publications in the Great Lakes region, including Great Lakes Now and Environmental Health News, since 2019. You can find him in western Michigan watching birds.
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Andrew Blok
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A hand loosely holding a smoking cigarette.

A ban on menthol cigarettes proposed by the FDA will be open for public comment.

Boonchai Wedmakawand/Getty Images

The US Food and Drug Administration published proposed rules banning menthol cigarettes and flavored cigars on Thursday. The ban would affect a third of cigarettes sold in the US each year, though stop short of banning menthol-flavored e-cigarettes, according to the Wall Street Journal, which earlier reported the news. 

"These actions have the potential to significantly reduce disease and death from combusted tobacco product use, the leading cause of preventable death in the US," the FDA said in a release. 

Once published, the rules will be open to public comment. If enacted, the ban would likely not take effect until at least 2024, barring any lawsuits, according to the Journal. Some states and cities have already banned menthol cigarettes.

Menthol cigarettes are big business for the tobacco industry. One company, British American Tobacco, makes about 30% of its global profits from menthol cigarette sales in the United States, the Journal reported.

In a statement last year, the FDA said that 18.6 million people in America smoke menthol cigarettes. There's a racial divide within that group. Of Black smokers, 85% smoke menthol cigarettes. Of white smokers, 30% do, according to the FDA.

"Additionally, the proposed rules represent an important step to advance health equity by significantly reducing tobacco-related health disparities," said Health and Human Services Secretary Xavier Becerra on Thursday. 

The share of US smokers using menthols has risen from 30.5% in 2005 to 43% in 2020, according to a Wall Street Journal analysis. Over half of smokers younger than 18 smoke menthol cigarettes, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

"The proposed rules would help prevent children from becoming the next generation of smokers and help adult smokers quit," Becerra added. 

Studies cited by the FDA say a ban on menthol cigarettes could result in a 15% decrease in overall smoking over 40 years. Those studies say 324,000 to 654,000 smoking-related deaths would be avoided over the same time period. The FDA said the ban would be a large step toward the Biden administration's cancer moonshot, which aims to reduce cancer by 50% over the next 25 years.

The dangers of smoking and risk of addiction are well known. While e-cigarettes and vapes are a newer issue, mounting evidence says they can be just as addictive as traditional cigarettes. Experts says finding support is one key to quitting.

Read more: New Zealand Plans to Completely Ban Smoking for the Next Generation

The information contained in this article is for educational and informational purposes only and is not intended as health or medical advice. Always consult a physician or other qualified health provider regarding any questions you may have about a medical condition or health objectives.