LOUISVILLE, KY (April 29, 2021) – The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) today announced it will begin the process of banning menthol cigarettes and all flavored cigars within the next year.
“Banning menthol—the last allowable flavor—in cigarettes and banning all flavors in cigars will help save lives, particularly among those disproportionately affected by these deadly products. 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,” said Acting FDA Commissioner Janet Woodcock, M.D. “Together, these actions represent powerful, science-based approaches that will have an extraordinary public health impact. Armed with strong scientific evidence, and with full support from the Administration, we believe these actions will launch us on a trajectory toward ending tobacco-related disease and death in the U.S.”
One study suggests that within the first 13 to 17 months of a ban, an additional 923,000 American smokers would quit, including 230,000 African Americans. Another study projected a ban would prevent about 633,000 American deaths, including nearly a quarter million African Americans.
“This ban is a crucial step in preventing youth initiation and addiction to nicotine and will help mitigate some of the health outcome disparities for African Americans,” said Ben Chandler, Foundation for a Healthy Kentucky president and CEO. “The Foundation applauds the FDA for taking this step to improve Americans’ health, save lives and reduce health care costs.”
Menthol numbs the throat and reduces irritation from smoking, making it easier for young people who have just started smoking to use. In fact, nearly 80 percent of people ages 12 to 17 and 75 percent of people ages 18 to 25, who were current tobacco users in 2014, reported menthol cigarettes were the first tobacco product they ever used. Because menthol cigarettes are more addictive and harder to quit, the ban will work upstream, making starting smoking less attractive to teens and new smokers.
Nearly 86 percent of African American smokers use menthol cigarettes, a number disproportionately higher than other races. Research has shown Big Tobacco has deliberately targeted Black communities, especially youth, with marketing menthol cigarettes, cigars and other tobacco products.
Tobacco use is the number one cause of preventable death among African Americans. Some 45,000 African Americans die annually from tobacco-related diseases (heart disease, cancer, stroke).
Research shows a menthol cigarette ban would result in nearly 45 percent of African American menthol smokers trying to quit.
Data from Canada shows its menthol ban led to more people quitting smoking. And, for those who smoke menthol cigarettes daily, the quit rate nearly doubled to 21 percent. Further, menthol smokers were less likely to relapse once the ban was in place.