US Government Delays Plans to Ban Menthol Cigarettes and Flavored Cigars

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US Government Delays Plans to Ban Menthol Cigarettes and Flavored Cigars
US government's plan to ban menthol cigarettes and flavored cigars may be delayed again, risking political backlash.

According to the US media GMToday, the US government's plan to ban menthol cigarettes and flavored cigars seems to have been delayed once again. The target set by the administrative department to complete the relevant regulations by March has been missed. Controversy has particularly surrounded the potential political risks of a ban on menthol cigarettes, which the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) proposed in April 2022.


Although the federal government has delayed the implementation of the smoking ban plan from August to March of the next year, the Office of Management and Budget still has one final meeting on the regulation scheduled for April 2 with representatives from the tobacco giant Altria and the lobbying firm Forbes Tate Partners.


This is the FDA's third attempt to restrict menthol cigarettes, first in 2013, then again in 2018, with the possibility of further delay until after the November 2024 election, when President Joe Biden may face a tough battle against former President Donald Trump. According to Gallup data, Biden currently has a 40% approval rating.


The FDA estimates that about 18.5 million people, including teenagers, use menthol, with menthol cigarettes being particularly popular among Black smokers. According to data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, in 2020, approximately eight out of ten Black adult smokers reported using menthol.


This issue has led to a conflict between law enforcement agencies and public health advocates, sparking advertising campaigns and dividing black legislators and interest groups. Concerns include increased regulation of minority smokers - a theory that many public health advocates dismiss as industry alarmism.


Industry opposes the ban on menthol, arguing that it is ineffective.


Just like the prohibition of the 1920s, the FDA's proposal to ban menthol cigarettes will create an unregulated black market, encourage criminal activity, and threaten the integrity of the regulatory system - the FDA did not consider the consequences," wrote the owner of Marlboro cigarettes, Altria, in a letter to the FDA when the regulation was first proposed.


Critics of the proposed ban also point out the lack of resources to help current smokers quit, including the FDA's continued refusal to regulate flavored e-cigarettes. Many manufacturers are questioning the denial of these products in court.


On Thursday, Representatives Ann McLane Kuster and Larry Bucshon wrote a letter to Health and Human Services Secretary Xavier Becerra, urging greater attention to bringing new smoking cessation therapies to market.


Until now, there have only been three FDA-approved smoking cessation therapies," lawmakers wrote. "No new treatment methods have been approved in nearly 20 years. While these therapies are effective, there should be encouragement for more effective treatment methods.


Public health advocates are urging Biden to take action, emphasizing how the ban will strengthen the government's commitment to health equity and the Cancer Moonshot initiative.


Chief Executive Officers of the American Cancer Society and the American Cancer Society Cancer Action Network, Karen Knudsen, stated: "There is no scientific evidence to support the federal government's decision to not completely ban menthol flavoring in cigarettes and all flavors in cigars." "This continued inaction shows shocking deference to the tobacco industry, which continues to profit from products that cause death."


There is absolutely no reason to further delay a policy that the FDA has been studying for over 12 years, a policy that is supported by overwhelming scientific evidence and will save the lives of hundreds of thousands of people," said Yolonda Richardson, President and CEO of the organization.


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