HARTFORD, Conn. (WTNH)– A historic move by the Food and Drug Administration. The FDA announced it would ban menthol cigarettes.
A citizen’s petition was filed eight years ago with regulators asking them to investigate and institute a ban. Supporters say menthol cigarettes targeted toward the African-American community are putting people at risk.
FDA officials say the ban would prevent more than 630,000 deaths. Of those nearly half would be Black Americans.
U.S. Senator Richard Blumenthal (CT-D) issued a statement in response to the FDA’s announcement.
He said, in part, “Big Tobacco has shamelessly exploited menthol’s appeal to the youngest of smokers and to communities of color. Removing menthol and other flavored cigars, including the small cigars so popular with young people, from store shelves, would make tobacco products less appealing and prevent yet another generation of Americans from becoming tobacco addicts.”
Earlier this month, Sen. Blumenthal joined 16 Senators in calling on the FDA to act on a pending citizen petition requesting a ban on menthol cigarettes and cigars.
The Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids was an original petitioner asking the federal government to ban menthol cigarettes.
Kevin O’Flaherty, from the Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids admits it’s a start.
“While today’s announcement is extraordinary we think it should actually increase pressure on states like Connecticut to act on this issue,” said O’Flaherty.
State lawmakers are considering a ban.
Meantime, the Food and Drug Administration cites studies that show seven out of 10 Black youths who smoke use menthol. And the FDA, says half of the teens between the ages of 12 and 17 use menthol-flavored smoking products.
The acting director of the FDA released this statement saying in part: “Banning menthol—the last allowable flavor—in cigarettes and banning all flavors in cigars will help save lives. “
But big tobacco companies like Altria Group say youth smoking rates including menthol cigarettes are at historical lows. In a statement to News 8 David Sutton, an Altria spokesperson says, “We share the common goal of moving adult smokers from cigarettes to potentially less harmful alternatives, but prohibition does not work.” Sutton adds, “Criminalizing menthol will lead to serious unintended consequences.”
An undercover video obtained by News 8 shows single menthol cigarettes called “loosies” being sold illegally on the streets of Boston.
Altria officials say a marketplace of FDA-authorized non-combustible alternatives for adults is better.
The proposed FDA ban would not limit the sale or production of menthol-flavored E-cigarettes.
Campaign for tobacco-free kids says states should act on their own.
“We can’t think of a single reason why Connecticut should continue to watch adults die and kids get addicted to these products when the science is now so clear,” said O’Flaherty.
There are 100-cities and five states around the country that have banned menthol cigarettes at the local level instead of waiting for the federal government.
The FDA plan could take 5 to 10-years to put in place.