Cigarettes have had their lengthy share of controversies. While other drugs were being criminalized in the late 1900s, cigarettes circumvented laws because of their influential lobbyists. Until recently, actual health facts were revealed about the product, issuing new tactics to diminish tobacco and cigarette sales. On Thursday, the Food and Drug Administration announced a plan to prohibit the sales of menthol cigarettes, a type of cigarette that’s flavored with the mint plant compound.
Though menthol cigarettes are not more dangerous than regular cigarettes, the ban could still successfully cut back illnesses due to nicotine and tobacco. The purpose of the ban is to improve the lives of United States citizens and remove the availability of lawful carcinogens. Dr. Robert Califf, the FDA commissioner, told a Senate committee that the ban could have immediate success in saving the lives of those addicted to menthol and flavored cigarettes.
The only difference between standard cigarettes and menthol cigarettes is that the latter contains the mint-based chemical. The chemical is used for a cooling effect when smoked, easing the harshness of the tobacco. Unfortunately, menthol cigarettes have been purposefully marketed toward marginalized communities in America. Black Americans are one of those targeted demographics, with 85% of Black smokers buying menthol cigarettes. Though this ban intends to repair decades of harm done to marginalized people by tobacco companies, it could have the opposite effect by further criminalizing those most vulnerable.
A benefit of removing menthol cigarettes is to decrease the number of young smokers. Many young people start with menthol or flavored cigarettes since they’re less abrasive, pushing tobacco products into naive hands. Canada had success with curtailing young smokers after they banned menthol cigarettes. The US hopes to mirror their effective prohibition, with a projected 1.3 million people quitting smoking after a menthol law is established.
Though the ban was announced this week, it won’t go into effect until a year from now. Tobacco companies continue to lobby against it, hoping to postpone or eliminate the bill. The public has 60 days to comment on the proposed ban. After 60 days, the ban will be finalized and pushed into motion. Though the plan is moving forward, many assume tobacco lobbyists will contest the rule in court. This could put an indefinite hiatus on the bill if the tobacco companies can stall the ban.
Though the FDA wants to impose this ban to stop young smokers, menthol e-cigarettes will not be felonious according to the new law. Currently, the FDA is analyzing all vaping products for their hazard potential. As of now, menthol e-cigarettes and vapes will not be covered by the ban, but that could soon change with more scientific reviews. The organization has already allowed the marketing of flavored e-cigarettes, which still influence young people to engage in smoking tobacco products.
Though the ban supposedly will stop a smoking incline in America, exactly how a menthol ban will save citizens is unclear. As products become criminalized, marginalized demographics are often the focus of new prohibitions, continuing a cycle of unjust incarceration. Though the FDA wants to provide safety to Americans, banning menthol products might not yield the results the administration is looking for.