(April 29) The Foundation for a Smoke-Free World applauds the FDA’s proposal to ban menthol cigarettes and flavored cigars. This move will save lives and help reduce health disparities caused by these products, which are disproportionately used by Black Americans. The inclusion of small cigars, which are popular among young people, is a positive step toward keeping these harmful products away from youth.
We are also encouraged by their decision to keep menthol-flavored harm reduction products (e-cigarettes, nicotine replacement therapy gum, heated tobacco, and snus) on the market. This is sound public policy that will give menthol cigarette users the option to switch to lower-risk products. There is precedent for this type of legislation: last year, the EU implemented a ban on the manufacture and sale of menthol cigarettes for its 27 member countries. Harm reduction products have remained on the market and there have been some positive results. Our survey of menthol cigarette smokers in eight EU countries before and after the ban found that some menthol users quit or switched to less harmful products as a result of the ban. However, the survey also offers warnings of possible negative outcomes of the ban, including increased home-based mentholation of cigarettes and some increases in illicit trade.
The FDA’s proposed legislation must be accompanied by a larger plan to reduce smoking rates, including government-led consumer education programs. This type of communications effort is needed to inform the public about the relative risks of harm reduction products, with the ultimate goal of encouraging behavior that promotes personal and public health.
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