The FDA announced today that it will begin the rulemaking process to ban menthol cigarettes and all flavors in cigars. This is a long overdue victory for public health! For more than 60 years the tobacco industry has been using menthol cigarettes and flavors to addict young people to smoking and to deliberately target the Black community with a product that kills half the people who use it. The industry did this knowing menthol and other flavors make it easier to start and harder to quit smoking.
Today’s announcement, however, doesn’t mean mission accomplished. Federal rulemaking takes a long time to actualize and as we know from past experience, the tobacco industry does not give up easily. We need a swift and detailed process without interference from the tobacco industry.
Since state and local governments have the authority to regulate the sale of tobacco products, they can get ahead of the federal rulemaking. Action at these levels can more immediately advance health and equity by keeping menthol cigarettes and flavored tobacco products from addicting another generation of smokers and disproportionately causing death and disease in the African American community.