White House delays menthol cigarette ban decision until 2024

The FDA’s efforts to ban menthol cigarettes have been delayed once again as the White House announced it will take more time to review the proposal. This unexpected delay has raised concerns among anti-tobacco groups, who fear that the long-awaited rule could be derailed.

The FDA has been working for years to develop the plan to eliminate menthol, estimating that it could prevent 300,000 to 650,000 smoking-related deaths over several decades, with most of those preventable deaths occurring among Black Americans. Previous FDA efforts on menthol have been hampered by pushback from the tobacco industry and competing political priorities across several administrations.

The proposed ban, which would give cigarette companies one year to phase out menthol, has garnered support from anti-smoking groups, who are urging the administration to uphold its promise and issue a final rule by the end of the year. Menthol is the only cigarette flavor that wasn’t banned under the 2009 law that gave the FDA authority over tobacco products.

Despite the FDA sending the final version of the regulation to the White House’s Office of Management and Budget in October, the White House has agreed to hold numerous meetings with groups opposing the rule, including civil rights advocates, Business owners, and law enforcement officials, many of whom have received donations from tobacco companies.

The issue has attracted attention from prominent African American leaders and senior members of the Biden administration, with meetings scheduled to continue into January. The delay has led to concerns that the proposal could be indefinitely held up, to the detriment of Black lives.

Historically, menthol cigarettes have been popular among Black smokers, with an estimated 85% of Black smokers buying menthol cigarettes. The flavor’s cooling effect makes it easier to start smoking and harder to quit, driving its popularity. The FDA’s enforcement of the rule would only apply to companies that make or sell cigarettes, not to individual smokers.

In conclusion, news reports suggest that the delay in finalizing the FDA’s menthol rule could pose a significant setback for the tobacco industry, particularly at the expense of Black lives. The ongoing delay underscores the complex and longstanding issue surrounding the regulation of menthol cigarettes.

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