A Man Holding Pack of Cigarettes Photo: Getty Images

Regulator moves to ban menthol cigarettes over consumers’ health issues

*With expected tobacco company resistance in the United States, stakeholder say the ban could take years to implement

*Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says Black men have the highest death rate from lung cancer in the country

Isola Moses | ConsumerConnect

The issue has reportedly been a matter of public discourse for years, and now the government may be ready to ban menthol-flavoured cigarettes in view of the potential harm to consumers’ wellbeing.

ConsumerConnect gathered that a citizen’s group has filed a petition in a Federal Court to require the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to institute such a ban, and the regulatory has had to reply by Thursday, April 29, 2021.

Citing “people familiar with the matter, The Wall Street Journal (WSJ) reports the FDA will announce a ban on the product in the country.

Anti-smoking groups have long targeted menthol cigarettes, claiming they promote smoking, especially among young people, report said.

The menthol flavouring, according to consumer advocacy groups, is said to mask the harshness of tobacco smoke.

These groups also contend that menthol cigarette smokers have a harder time quitting the practice.

However, report noted if the FDA does seek a ban, it won’t happen overnight, as tobacco companies have said they will go to court to block a ban so it could take years for the fight to play out.

Should the FDA go in the expected direction it would first publish the proposed rule, giving citizens and stakeholders the opportunity to comment, report stated.

It is recalled that the FDA a year ago moved to restrict flavoured e-cigarette products — notably fruit and mint flavours in the US.

However, it stopped short of placing restrictions on menthol e-cigarettes, which anti-smoking groups oppose for the same reason they want to outlaw menthol cigarettes.

Surveys have shown that the overwhelming majority of Black smokers prefer menthol cigarettes and organisations promoting Black health have led efforts at getting menthol cigarettes off the market.

Black men have the highest death rate from lung cancer in the country, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

Erika Sward, national assistant vice-president for advocacy at the American Lung Association, told the NBC News: “When you combine high rates of smoking with systematic racism in healthcare systems, you have a tremendous health disparity.”

Meanwhile, tobacco companies are poised to contest any menthol ban or restriction because so much of their business rests on that flavouring, WSJ report noted.

Smokers who purchase menthol cigarettes tend to be younger, and can be expected to be smokers for years.

The American Cancer Society also has suggested that menthol cigarettes could be more harmful to smokers because they’re “easier” to smoke, and the smoke can be held in the lungs longer than unflavoured tobacco.

The Association in a recent statement said: “This helps to explain why people who smoke menthol cigarettes and get lung cancer often have their cancers located in certain parts of the lung.

“It also might be a reason why it is harder for people who smoke menthol cigarettes to quit.”

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