Biden Clearing Out The Menthol Cigarette Smoke With New Ban

By CultureBanx Team

  • The Biden administration is moving forward on a plan to ban menthol cigarettes
  • In the U.S., 81% of Black smokers and 51% of Hispanic smokers used menthol cigarettes

President Biden’s administration is clearing out the smoke when it comes to the sale of menthol flavored cigarettes. This nicotine product accounts for more than one-third of all cigarettes sold in the U.S. each year. Menthol cigarettes have been historically heavily marketed toward Black Americans, and the FDA specifically noted that the move to ban them would save the lives of 92,000 to 238,000 African Americans.

Why This Matters: The FDA intends to ban the sale of menthol cigarettes in the U.S., as well as all flavored cigars. In the U.S., 81% of Black smokers and 51% of Hispanic smokers used menthols in 2020, compared with 30% of white smokers, according to The Wall Street Journal.

In 2013, the FDA found that menthols are harder to quit and likely pose a greater health risk than regular cigarettes. Tobacco use leads to more than 480,000 deaths a year in the U.S. and approximately 45,000 African Americans die from smoking-related diseases every year.

Addiction to menthol flavored nicotine is one thing, being addicted to making money is much harder to quit. Case and point; In 2017, British American Tobacco (BTI -0.23%) shelled out nearly $50 billion to buy Newport maker Reynolds American, which is the top U.S. menthol-cigarette brand. Menthols account for roughly 30% of British American Tobacco’s U.S. cigarette global profits, according to Morgan Stanley. 

Stopping the sale of menthol cigarettes would be a huge hit to these companies’ bottom line. Shares of British American Tobacco are up 8.7% over the past year.

Menthol smokers skew younger than average, so they represent a longer potential lifetime of smoking, the Wall Street Journal reported. Teens are at risk of becoming addicted to nicotine and Tobacco Free Kids reported that in 2019, 3.2% of African American high school students smoked, compared to 9.9% of Whites and 7.2% of Hispanics. Menthol, which has a flavor similar to cough syrup, attracts minority teens, and are typically easier to smoke and harder to quit, according to the National African-American Tobacco Prevention Network.  

What’s Next: The ban on menthol cigarettes wouldn’t apply to menthol e-cigarettes. Also, it won’t take effect for at least two years, if not longer. The FDA could publish final rules as early as 2023.

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