Menthol Cigarettes, FDA, ban, petition

Biden Administration Postpones Ban On Menthol Cigarettes, Again

One study found Black voters overwhelmingly supported the FDA’s proposed ban on menthol cigarettes.

The Biden administration was expected to ban menthol cigarettes in March 2024 but has instead decided to indefinitely postpone the decision, sparking outrage and lawsuits from groups that have advocated for the ban on behalf of Black Americans. 

As NPR reports, the Biden administration, including Health and Human Services Secretary Xavier Becerra, has attempted to explain its decision as one prompted by feedback from civil rights and criminal justice groups, but this explanation, meanwhile, has been blasted by anti-smoking groups as one born of political expediency and not public health policy. 

“This rule has garnered historic attention, and the public comment period has yielded an immense amount of feedback, including from various elements of the civil rights and criminal justice movement,” Becerra said in a statement. “It’s clear that there are still more conversations to have, and that will take significantly more time.”

Illinois Democratic Rep. Robin Kelly, the chair of the Congressional Black Caucus Health Braintrust, responded to the Biden administration’s delay in ruling on menthol cigarettes with a statement to Roll Call. “I am deeply disappointed that the FDA has chosen to abandon its established plan to ban menthol cigarettes,” Kelly said. “The FDA’s experts have been clear that menthol cigarettes are harmful to public health. This is a commonsense plan which could have saved hundreds of thousands of lives.”

Due in large part to the efforts of Big Tobacco and the advertising industry, menthol cigarettes have been a fixture in advertisements targeting the Black community, which has led to Black people comprising the majority of menthol cigarette smokers. That has also been connected to the fact that lung cancer, a type of cancer that has been linked to cigarette smoke, is the most common cancer for Black men to contract. 

In February, the NAACP renewed its calls for the ban of menthol cigarettes after the release of a study that indicated that Black voters overwhelmingly supported the FDA’s proposed ban on menthol cigarettes. In a press release, NAACP President and CEO Derrick Johnson called on the Biden administration to put people over politics.

“This new data proves what we already know to be true –- Black voters want to see a menthol ban. Now, it’s time for the Biden Administration to put people over profits and swiftly enact a rule that will save countless Black lives. We’re done waiting. The NAACP will continue to do everything in its power to hold this Administration accountable for its promises to our community. Enough is enough. Our lives are at stake.”

Also in February, the American Heart Association issued a press release featuring a call from two former United States Surgeons General for the Biden administration to accept the FDA’s proposed ban on menthol cigarettes. Regina Benjamin and Jerome Adams wrote a joint column for STAT News and called attention to the efforts of the tobacco industry to target certain demographics. “As surgeons general during both Republican and Democratic administrations, we have consistently pointed out the enormous toll of tobacco use, highlighted the stark health disparities that continue to ravage Black and minority communities, and emphasized evidence-based measures to reduce smoking rates and save lives,” Benjamin and Adams wrote. 

The pair concluded, “We believe strongly that to protect public health, menthol cigarettes, and flavored cigars should no longer be sold. We urge the Biden administration not to be distracted by the tobacco industry and its apologists. The administration should act instead in the interests of children, families, and communities.”

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