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FDA announces plans to pursue ban on menthol in cigarettes

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(WASHINGTON) — The Food and Drug Administration plans to ban menthol in cigarettes and all flavors in cigars, a step the agency says will reduce tobacco use and curb preventable illnesses and deaths.

The FDA says flavored products, including menthol, are more appealing to kids and young adults because they mask the harshness or unpleasant flavors of tobacco products. There are 18.6 million smokers of menthol cigarettes in the U.S., according to FDA. Out of Black smokers, 85% smoke menthol cigarettes, compared with 30% of white smokers, the agency says.

The FDA estimates the ban would lead more than 920,000 smokers to quit smoking, including 230,000 Black Americans in the first year and a half.

“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,” Acting FDA Commissioner Janet Woodcock said in a 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.”

The FDA enacted a ban on many flavors in e-cigarette products last year to make them less appealing to teenagers, especially after a string of vaping-related lung injuries.

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