Proposed ban on menthol cigarettes expected to be announced this week
The Biden administration is expected to announce a proposed ban on menthol-flavored cigarettes this week, The Washington Post reported.
The ban has long been sought by public health advocacy groups, and the administration is facing a Thursday deadline to respond to a lawsuit demanding that the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) take action on a 2013 citizen petition seeking a menthol cigarette ban.
The White House directed questions to the FDA, which declined to comment.
The FDA’s decision would not immediately ban menthol flavors, but would instead launch a rulemaking process that would likely take years. Any final decision would also likely be challenged in court by the tobacco industry
Anti-smoking and civil rights groups have long argued Black Americans have been disproportionately harmed by menthol cigarettes, as the tobacco industry deliberately targeted Black communities for decades.
Those groups have been pressuring the Biden administration to act.
The citizen petition was initially filed in 2013 by the Public Health Law Center, the African American Tobacco Control Leadership Council and other public health groups.
But the FDA failed to respond to the petition for years, so the groups filed a lawsuit in June to compel a response.
Congress banned flavored cigarettes in 2009, except for menthol. Instead, lawmakers at the time directed the FDA to determine whether continued sale of menthol cigarettes was “appropriate for public health.”
Past efforts to ban menthol flavorings have failed under intense industry opposition along with its allies in Congress, but advocates are confident this time could be different because of President Biden’s stated commitment to reducing racial health disparities.
Updated at 12:35 p.m.