WASHINGTON — Some of the most popular tobacco products in the U.S. may be banned soon.
The White House is considering two new federal proposed rules that would pull menthol cigarettes and flavored cigars from shelves nationwide.
“There’s no purpose for these products other than to cause death and disease for millions of Americans,” said Erika Sward, Assistant Vice President for Advocacy of the American Lung Association.
The American Lung Association support this effort by the FDA. Sward said the dangers of menthol are clear.
“Everything from heart disease, lung disease, lung cancer, a whole host of other cancers,” she said. “But also some perhaps lesser-known causes, including diabetes, all of those can be caused by smoking,”
The organization is urging the Biden administration to approve these federal changes by the end of the year.
“There is no reason for menthol cigarettes to be on the marketplace other than to make the poison go down easier and attract new users and to keep current users addicted,” said Sward. “We know that for some communities, including many black Americans, menthol cigarettes are actually harder to quit than regular cigarettes.”
But others say a ban isn’t the answer.
The National Association of Tobacco Outlets, the national retail trade association with more than 66,000 retailers that sell tobacco products, says it would lead to more criminal activity. In a written statement, the association said “Further the supply of these products will shift from responsible, licensed and regulated retailers to drastically expand an already existing illicit marketplace.”
Additionally, some community leaders believe a ban would disproportionately criminalize Black neighborhoods because menthol is the preferred choice for many Black smokers.
“The potential ban would give just an enormous opportunity for an unproductive, unnecessary encounters between law enforcement and people in communities,” said Rev. Markel Hutchins, Chairman and CEO MovementForward, Inc.
These concerns stem from incidents like the death of Eric Garner in 2014. He died from a police chokehold after officers attempted to arrest him for selling loose cigarettes.
His mother, Gwen Carr, sent a letter to Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer expressing her concerns.
Many opponents say they aren’t supportive of smoking. Instead, they want the federal government to find other ways to address this health issue.
“Leveraging every asset and resource that the FDA and other federal entities have to increase the scrutiny on tobacco companies to continue to push tobacco companies to reduce their advertising, reduce their targeting,” said Hutchings.
A few states aren’t waiting for a federal ban. California, Massachusetts, and DC have already banned the sale of all flavored tobacco products.
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