AUSTIN (KXAN) — With one major move by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, we could soon see the biggest crackdown on cigarettes in more than decade.
The FDA is proposing a ban on all menthol cigarettes and cigars.
Advocates for the proposed ban have said Black Americans will benefit most from the ban.
“Largely because of more addictive menthol cigarettes, Black smokers have a harder time quitting smoking and die at higher rates from tobacco-related diseases like cancer, heart disease and stroke,” said the campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids.
Matthew Myers is the president of the Tobacco-Free Kids campaign and said the FDA’s move would be monumental.
“This may be the single most important thing the federal government can do to reduce tobacco use among our nation’s children,” said Myers. “Between 40 and 50 of all kids who start smoking use menthol, and it’s a simple reason — menthol coats your throat and makes it easier for the poison to go down.”
Myers said menthol-flavored cigars are also a huge factor putting teens at risk.
“Few people realize that more teenage boys smoke cigars than smoke cigarettes, and the reason is flavored cigars,” said Myers. “If we are serious about reducing smoking among our kids, which means reducing lung cancer and heart disease, then we have to get rid of the flavors.”
The FDA will take up discussion of the proposed ban in June before finalizing the rule.
If the agency doesn’t issue the ban, Myers said, “It will be one of the great public health tragedies of our time.”
The FDA released the following statement regarding enforcement should the ban move forward:
“Importantly, the FDA cannot and will not enforce against individual consumers for possession or use of menthol cigarettes or flavored cigars. If these proposed rules are finalized and implemented, FDA enforcement will only address manufacturers, distributors, wholesalers, importers and retailers who manufacture, distribute, or sell such products within the U.S. that are not in compliance with applicable requirements. These proposed regulations do not include a prohibition on individual consumer possession or use.”