The FDA is planning to ban menthol cigarettes and all flavors of cigars, and Biden approves

menthol cigarettes popular
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  • The FDA is planning to ban menthol cigarettes and all flavors of cigars.
  • The agency said the move would save lives by helping people quit and preventing new users.
  • Tobacco company Altria said it shares the goal of moving adult smokers from cigarettes, “but prohibition does not work.”
  • See more stories on Insider’s business page.

The US Food and Drug Administration is planning to ban menthol cigarettes and all flavors of cigars, saying the measure will help people quit smoking and keep young people from starting.

In a statement Thursday, the agency said the move “will help save lives,” though it did not specify when the ban would begin.

Acting FDA Commissioner Janet Woodcock said the ban would help current smokers to quit the habit, keep young people from starting, and decrease health disparities in communities of color, low-income populations, and LGBTQ+ individuals, all of whom are more likely to use the tobacco products.

“We believe these actions will launch us on a trajectory toward ending tobacco-related disease and death in the U.S.,” Woodcock said in the release.

Menthol flavoring covers up the harshness of tobacco products and makes them more appealing to young people, the FDA said.

In a briefing following the announcement, Woodcock said the idea to lower nicotine levels in all cigarettes was “still under consideration.”

“It’s on the table but we have not finished deliberations on that matter,” she said on the call.

Woodcock also said President Joe Biden has been fully supportive of the move to ban menthol cigarettes and all flavors of cigars.

Health and Human Services Secretary Xavier Becerra also hailed the move.

“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. Tobacco-related death and disease must become a part of America’s past. These public health measures will save lives,” Becerra said in a statement.

Read more: The FDA’s decision to pause the Johnson & Johnson vaccine rollout could pay off in the long run

Altria, the parent company of Philip Morris, which makes several kinds of menthol cigarettes, told Insider in a statement: “We share the common goal of moving adult smokers from cigarettes to potentially less harmful alternatives, but prohibition does not work. Criminalizing menthol will lead to serious unintended consequences.”

“Youth smoking rates, including menthol cigarettes, are at historical lows, and science and evidence does not support such a ban. We will review FDA’s announcement and continue to engage in this multi-year process with a focus on the science and evidence,” the statement said.

British American Tobacco did not immediately respond to Insider’s request for comment on the matter. Shares of both tobacco companies fell Thursday, according to Markets Insider data.

Banning menthol cigarettes in the US could help nearly 1 million smokers quit and prevent 633,000 deaths, the FDA said, citing two separate studies.

Of those numbers, about 230,000 African Americans would quit smoking and another 237,000 African American deaths would be averted, the studies showed.

“For far too long, certain populations, including African Americans, have been targeted, and disproportionately impacted by tobacco use,” said Mitch Zeller, director of the FDA’s Center for Tobacco Products. “Despite the tremendous progress we’ve made in getting people to stop smoking over the past 55 years, that progress hasn’t been experienced by everyone equally.”

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