The US Food and Drug Administration have taken steps toward banning menthol in cigarettes and banning flavored cigars. The agency has now sent a rule proposing such action to the White House Office of Management and Budget for final review.
As for prohibition fans like Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids, who are urging the Office of Management and Budget to act quickly and expedite the review so the final regulations could be issued by the end of the year. Others are not so sure this is the best plan of action. The National Association of Tobacco Outlets, the national retail trade association representing more than 66,000 stores that sell tobacco products, doesn’t think a ban on menthol cigarettes and flavored cigars will suddenly make lots of smokers quit. Instead, it says, it will prompt criminal activity. Stating that “The supply of these products will shift from responsible, licensed and regulated retailers to drastically expand an already existing illicit marketplace,”
The ACLU also had their issues with the proposed ban. Aamra Ahmad, senior legislative counsel with the American Civil Liberties Union, highlighted serious concerns that a ban on menthol cigarettes will disproportionately impact Black and Brown communities in the following statement: “At this pivotal moment, as the public demands an end to police violence erupting from minor offenses, we call on the Biden administration to rethink its approach and employ harm reduction strategies over a ban that will lead to criminalization. As we approach the one-year anniversary of the murder of George Floyd — only a few years removed from the killing of Eric Garner, a Black man killed by NYPD for selling loose, untaxed cigarettes — the racially disparate impact of the criminal legal system has captured the nation’s attention. It is now clear that policies that amount to prohibition have serious racial justice implications.”
As Filter pointed out in an article by Helen Redmond back in June of 2021, an immediate way to bring down rates of smoking is to promote vaping. E-cigarettes are more effective for smoking cessation than nicotine-replacement therapies and they are dramatically safer. Millions of smokers have already transitioned to vaping.
We already know the harms that prohibition creates and in my opinion this menthol ban will be no different. As @Vapingit pointed out on X (formerly Twitter) the Google search history results on “how to add menthol to a cigarette” have increased dramatically over the past few years.
The results in the picture show that search results for how to add menthol to cigarettes went from 2,880,000 in 2021 to 4,530,000 in 2023.
The FDA recent activity with PMTA denials like the one issued for RJ Reynolds Vuse menthol products leaves little hope that the agency will approve a safer alternative for people who smoke menthol cigarettes. Leaving them with two options: the illicit market or DIY from Google search results. Neither option seems safe or appropriate for the protection of public health. Which leaves us with one question? Who is the FDA thinking of when they make these rules and decisions? Clearly it’s not the adults that are using these products every day.