UPDATED 4/29, 5:55 p.m. ET: On Thursday, the Food and Drug Administration announced that it will move forward with banning flavored cigars and menthol cigarettes, CNN reports.
The agency said it is in the process of proposing “product standards within the next year to ban menthol as a characterizing flavor in cigarettes and ban all characterizing flavors (including menthol) in cigars.”
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The new policy would ban menthol and other flavors of cigarettes, including tobacco products popular with young adults, which would effectively prohibit the selling of flavored blunts like Swisher Sweets, Backwoods, and King Palm.
Should the U.S. Drug and Food Administration decide to ban menthol cigarettes, federal officials would conduct a years-long rule-making process before the ban went into effect. The FDA faces a Thursday court deadline to respond to a 2013 citizen’s petition seeking a ban on menthols.
The ban has long been sought by civil rights activists who say Black Americans have been hurt by the industry’s aggressive marketing tactics, and for good reason. According to a study conducted by the American Lung Association, menthol cigarettes are used by 77.4% of Black Americans who smoke.
“When you combine high rates of smoking with systematic racism in health care systems, you have a tremendous health disparity,” Erika Sward, national assistant vice president for advocacy at the American Lung Association, told NBC News.
Delmonte Jefferson, executive director of the Center for Black Health & Equity, maintained that it’s time for the country to address the disparity. “Covid-19 and the racial awakening we had last summer exposed the inequities in our system,” Jefferson said. “Menthol is just another example of the health inequities that have plagued African Americans for generations.”