The Food and Drug Administration vows not to target black communities with its ban on menthol cigarettes.
WASHINGTON — The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has officially announced its plan to ban menthol cigarettes nationwide in an effort to reduce smoking among populations of color and those who struggle with cigarette use addiction disorders.
FDA’s ban on menthol cigarettes will not be enforced against individual consumers, which is a move that will likely ‘quell’ concerns about police using aggressive, unconstitutional tactics that target black neighborhoods or the possession of illegal cigarette products.
“Banning menthol—the last allowable flavor—in cigarettes and banning all flavors in cigars will help save lives, particularly among those disproportionately affected by these deadly products,” said Dr. Janet Woodcock, the acting FDA commissioner, in a press statement.
“With these actions, the FDA will help significantly reduce youth initiation, increase the chances of smoking cessation among current smokers, and address health disparities experienced by communities of color, low-income populations, and LGBTQ+ individuals, all of whom are far more likely to use these tobacco products,” Dr. Woodcock added.
Woodcock added that “these actions represent powerful, science-based approaches that will have an extraordinary public health impact.” NBC News online reports that the FDA’s decision would move forward with the ban with recognition of the potential civil liberties issues. Since the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s data indicates that 85 percent of blacks smokers use menthols, the academic and civil libertarians warned that such a ban on menthols could embolden law enforcement to target members of Black communities all over the country unconstitutionally.
“For far too long, certain populations, including African Americans, have been targeted, and disproportionately impacted by tobacco use. Despite the tremendous progress we’ve made in getting people to stop smoking over the past 55 years, that progress hasn’t been experienced by everyone equally,” said Mitch Zeller, director of FDA’s Center for Tobacco Products. Taken together, these policies will help save lives and improve the public health of our country as we confront the leading cause of preventable disease and death.
“We’re being liberated from the harm of mentholated tobacco products. This is the beginning of that,” said Delmonte Jefferson, executive director of the Center for Black Health & Equity, in a press release sent to Vaping Post.
Jefferson acknowledged the rule-making process ahead. “Food and Drug Administration has stood up for the health of Black people. It should have been done over a decade ago. But this says, ‘We’re starting to take our foot off of the necks of Black people.’”
The American Civil Liberties Union and a coalition of other criminal justice reform organizations sent a letter to the White House asking the FDA to consider the potential harm done to communities of color. Vaping Post previously reported on this.
Ever since the FDA won the power to regulate tobacco products in 2009, the legal and regulatory battle to ban menthol cigarettes has been raging for several years.
Before the Tobacco Control Act of 2009, tobacco companies knowingly targeted black communities in a racist and harmful legacy to addict low-income communities to smoking.
This is a developing story.