White House Delays Implementing Ban On Menthol Cigarettes Until At Least 2024

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by Tyler Durden
Friday, Dec 08, 2023 - 10:00 PM

Authored by Stephen Katte via The Epoch Times,

White House officials are reportedly taking more time to review a sweeping plan from U.S. health regulators to ban menthol from all cigarettes.

According to a Dec. 6 updated regulatory agenda, the review process will now continue into 2024, with a current target date of March to possibly implement the ban.

The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has been developing a rule to eliminate menthol as a characterizing cigarette flavor since 2022. The federal agency estimates a ban on the flavor additive could prevent 300,000 to 650,000 smoking deaths over several decades. They claim most of the preventable deaths would be among minority groups and Americans of African descent, who disproportionately smoke menthol cigarettes.

In the proposed rule, the federal agency said the new product standard would reduce the appeal of cigarettes, particularly to youth and young adults, and possibly decrease the likelihood of them progressing to "regular cigarette smoking.” If the rule is successfully implemented, cigarette companies will have one year to phase out menthol. It's unclear if they would face any penalties for failing to adhere to the new rule.

“In addition, the tobacco product standard would improve the health and reduce the mortality risk of current menthol cigarette smokers by decreasing cigarette consumption and increasing the likelihood of cessation,” the FDA rule reads.

According to the FDA, menthol is a flavor additive with a mint taste and aroma that aids in reducing the harshness and irritation of smoking. It says the additive also helps boost the appeal of cigarettes and makes the menthol variants interact with nicotine in the brain, enhancing the nicotine’s addictive effects.

Anti-smoking groups have been backing the FDA’s efforts since the beginning. Following the updated rule implementation date, some of the anti-smoking groups warned the delay could see the effort to phase out menthol held up indefinitely.

The FDA estimates there were 18.5 million menthol cigarette smokers aged 12 and above in the United States in 2018, and there were particularly high rates of use by youth, young adults, and Americans with African ancestry and other racial and ethnic groups.

“Any delay in finalizing the FDA’s menthol rule would be a gift to the tobacco industry at the expense of Black lives,” Yolanda Richardson, CEO of the Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids, said in a media statement.

“We urge the administration to keep its promise and issue a final rule by the end of this year," she added.

According to the Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids, menthol is the only cigarette flavor still allowed in the United States after a 2009 law was passed by Congress that prohibited all other cigarette flavors.

FDA officials reportedly sent their final version of the regulation to the White House’s Office of Management and Budget in October. Generally, this is the last before a rule is released. However, the White House has agreed to hold meetings with groups and corporations opposing the FDA’s rule, including civil rights advocates, business owners, and law enforcement officials, before making a decision. More than 60 meetings have been scheduled at this stage, with final discussions expected to stretch into January.