Friday, 9 November 2018

F.D.A. Plans to Seek a Ban on Menthol Cigarettes

Menthol Cigarettes

In a landmark move sure to further shake the industry, the Food and Drug Administration plans to propose a ban on menthol cigarettes next week as a part of its aggressive campaign against flavored e-cigarettes and a few tobaccos products, agency officials said.

The proposal would need to undergo the F.D.A. regulatory maze, and it might be several years before such a restriction took effect, especially if the main tobacco companies contest the agency’s authority to try to so.

None of the main tobacco companies would discuss the likelihood of barring menthol cigarettes at this early stage.

But such a move has been long-awaited by public health advocates, who are especially concerned about the high percentage of African-Americans who become hooked into menthol cigarettes.

Dr. Scott Gottlieb, the agency’s commissioner, wouldn't comment publicly on the proposal on Friday.

But during a recent interview, he said the F.D.A. was revisiting the difficulty, one that had been weighed in previous administrations.

“It was an error for the agency to retreat on menthol,” he said earlier this fall.

Canada has already imposed a ban on menthol cigarettes, and therefore the European Union’s ban is about to travel into effect in 2020.

Earlier this year, San Francisco passed a prohibition against the sales of menthol cigarettes and flavored e-cigarettes.

The menthol proposal is simply one among several initiatives the F.D.A. plans to announce sometime next week, including a ban on sales of most flavored e-cigarettes, except menthol and mint, at retail stores and gas stations across the country.

The products, which include such flavors as chicken-and-waffles and mango, would be mainly relegated to sales online, at sites where the agency hopes to impose strict age verification to make sure that minors couldn't buy them.

As e-cigarettes became a booming business and very popular among teenagers and children, health officials, parents, et al. became alarmed at the soaring use of nicotine-addicting products that were considered alternatives to traditional smoking for adults.

The F.D.A. began targeting the main manufacturers of e-cigarettes, focusing especially on Juul Labs, the maker of a well-liked, flashy product that has become nearly ubiquitous in schools and on the streets.

Just each day after agency officials began issuing details of next week’s decision to ban some sales, Juul Labs indicated on Friday that it had decided to tug several of its wildly popular flavored e-cigarette pods off store shelves, consistent with several people briefed by the corporate.

The vaping giant will still sell its liquid nicotine pods in mint, menthol and tobacco flavors in brick-and-mortar stores, but will restrict other flavors that would be appealing to younger people to online sales.

Juul Labs launched the device, which resembles a flash drive, in 2015, and now has about 77 percent of the United States' e-cigarette market.

Last month, a competitor, Altria, said it might discontinue most of its flavored e-cigarettes and support federal legislation to boost the age of purchase to 21 for any
tobacco and vaping products.

Senator Chuck Schumer, Democrat of the latest York, had been an advocate of such restrictions.

“While more must be achieved to completely regulate e-cigs like actual cigarettes, Juul’s effort may be a good step in snuffing out kid-friendly flavors that have fueled the spiking drug addiction amongst America’s youth and may make a difference,” Mr. Schumer said in an email.

Lisa David, president, and chief executive of Public Health Solutions, a replacement York-based nonprofit group specializing in health issues for low-income and immigrant families said she opposed keeping mint and menthol flavors easily available in stores, especially given the gateway effect for children who start vaping then move to traditional cigarettes.

“Menthol makes it seem less harsh, and also makes the body absorb more nicotine,” she said.

“That means it’s easier to start out smoking and harder to quit.”

Ms. David also wondered if Juul's restriction could be too late, due to the various similar devices, called “Juul-alikes,” already on the market.

“Juul clearly was a contributor to the really significant uptake of children using e-cigarettes,” Ms. David said.

“At now, there are a bunch of other versions of the ‘Juul-alikes.’

They have similar shapes and flavors and are appealing to an equivalent audience.”

The battle against menthol cigarettes has continued for many years.

According to the N.A.A.C.P.’s Youth Against Menthol campaign, about 85 percent of African-American smokers aged 12 and up smoke menthol cigarettes, compared with 29 percent of white smokers, which the organization calls results of decades of culturally tailored tobacco company promotion.

The most popular menthol brand within us is Newport, which is that the second-largest- selling cigarette brand within the industry, consistent with the R. J. Reynolds Tobacco Company.

Imperial Brands have two strong sellers, Kool and Salem. Altria’s best-selling cigarette, Marlboro, is additionally available in menthol, as is R.J.R.’s Camel.

A spokesman for R. J. Reynolds declined to comment.

Altria and Imperial Brands couldn't be immediately reached.

In a joint statement on Friday, the Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids, the American Academy of Pediatrics, the American Lung Association, and a number of other public health groups said that action on menthol cigarettes was long overdue.

“There is overwhelming scientific evidence that menthol cigarettes have had a profound adverse effect on public health within us, leading to more death and disease,” the organizations said.

Although federal health officials released new reports in the week that indicated traditional smoking had reached a record low since 1965, smoking-related deaths still number about 480,000 within us per annum.

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