When the Food and Drug Administration started regulating tobacco products in 2009, it promptly banned flavored cigarettes—just not the flavor preferred by the vast majority of Black smokers. The Biden administration is now planning to propose a ban on menthol cigarettes as well, a move that both antismoking and civil rights groups have long pushed for, the Washington Post reports. The FDA says more than 85% of Black smokers prefer menthol cigarettes, compared to 46% of Hispanic smokers and 29% of white smokers. The FDA says across all races, more than half of smokers 12 to 17 years old choose menthol. Advocates of a menthol ban say Black communities have been aggressively targeted by tobacco companies promoting menthols, which researchers say are more addictive.
Sources tell Politico that the plan to ban menthol cigarettes will be released Thursday—the court-ordered deadline for the FDA to respond to a 2013 citizen petition from public health groups seeking a ban. The issue has long been stalled by opposition from the tobacco industry and lawmakers from tobacco-growing states. Trump-era FDA Commissioner Scott Gottlieb ended up leaving the administration months after proposing a menthol ban in 2018. The Post notes that the Biden administration has the authority to ban menthol cigarettes without going through Congress, though the ban will probably take years to implement. (Read more menthol cigarettes stories.)