United States Food and Drug Administration announced a long-awaited proposal to prohibit menthol cigarettes and flavorings in cigars on Thursday.
This is a huge triumph for anti-smoking campaigners but one that might face tough pushback from Big Tobacco.
The unprecedent proposal from US President Joe Biden’s administration, which comes a year after the agency reveals the idea.
For decades, anti-smoking groups have claimed that menthol cigarettes lead to disproportionate health costs on Black communities.
Menthol cigarettes, which are prohibited in several places, account for more than a third of the industry’s overall market share in US.
This is despite the fact that general smoking rates in the country are dropping.
“Today is a huge win for equity, justice, and public health concerns,” said Derrick Johnson, president of the largest US civil rights organization..
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According to FDA, there were more than 18.5 million menthol cigarette smokers ages 12 and older in the US in 2019.
According to US EPA, a ban on menthol cigarettes would result in a 15% drop in smoking within 40 years, based on modeling studies.
From May 5, the public can submit comments until July 5, at which point the agency will determine whether to make a final ruling after evaluating them.
In afternoon trade, shares of Altria Group Inc, Imperial Brands Plc, and British America Tobacco Plc (BAT) were mixed.
“We think that harm reduction, rather than prohibition, is the preferable road ahead,” Altria stated.
He added that removing these items from the legal market will push them into unregulated and illegal markets.
The American Civil Liberties Union and other organizations have also spoken out against the idea, expressing worry that a ban will unfairly affect Black and brown communities.
While Jefferies anticipates a ban, it does not expect it to take effect until 2026 at the earliest.
It went on to say that BAT will be able to weather the storm despite the fact that US menthol accounts for more than 30% of its entire group profit.
Evidence from other markets where comparable prohibitions have enacted, such as Canada and the European Union, show no influence on cigarette use.