Thinking Citizen Blog — FDA Could Ban Menthol Cigarettes — Why? So What? When?

Thinking Citizen Blog — Thursday is Health, Health Care, and Global Health Policy Day

Today’s Topic: FDA Could Ban Menthol Cigarettes — Why? So What? When?

Until this week I had no idea that 85% of Black smokers use menthol cigarettes compared to 29% of white smokers! Apparently, menthol makes it easier to start smoking and harder to quit. Proponents of the ban argue that it could save hundreds of thousands of Black lives. But opponents of the ban include civil rights activist and minister, Al Sharpton. “The Family Smoking Prevention and Tobacco Control Act, signed by President Barack Obama in 2009, gave the FDA regulatory authority over the tobacco industry for the first time. The law banned candy, fruit, and spice flavorings in cigarettes because of their potential appeal to children, but left unsettled the question of menthol.” Today, some more details. Experts — please chime in. Correct, elaborate, elucidate.


1. “Menthol, a compound that occurs naturally in mint plants, has been added to cigarettes since the 1920s. Menthol cigarettes create a cooling sensation in the mouth and throat, similar to that of a mentholated cough drop. Health officials say that eases the throat irritation caused by cigarette smoke, making menthols more appealing to young people and people who have never smoked.”

2. “Menthol also interacts with nicotine in the brain to enhance nicotine’s addictive effects, the FDA said.”

3. “The ban is part of the Biden administration’s Cancer Moonshot initiative to reduce the death rate from cancer by at least 50% over the next 25 years, the FDA said.”

NB: “The share of US smokers who use menthols has risen continuously, from 30.5% in 2005 to 43% in 2020.”


1. “The proposed menthol ban wouldn’t take effect for at least two years. The FDA will invite public comments on the proposed rules; the agency must then review them all.”

2. “It could publish final rules as early as 2023, and the ban could be set to take effect in 2024.”

3. “At least two tobacco companies have indicated that they might then sue, which could further delay the ban.”


1. NAACP President Derrick Johnson: “These products have killed our children, our parents, our brothers, sisters and livelihoods. After fighting against deadly menthol products for decades, today is a victory for Black America.”

2. Civil rights leaders who oppose the ban argue that it “would expand the illicit market for cigarettes and lead police to racially profile Black smokers. The American Civil Liberties Union and some members of the Congressional Black Caucus have expressed similar concerns.”

3. The Tobacco Industry perspective: “The scientific evidence shows no difference in the health risks associated with menthol cigarettes compared to non-menthol cigarettes, nor does it support that menthol cigarettes affect initiation dependence or cessation.”

NB: The company most affected by the ban would be BAT, the producer of the leading menthol brand (“Newport”) which accounts for 50% of its US sales and 30% of its global profits.

FOOTNOTES — The Canadian Ban, the US budget Impacts, criticisms of Sharpton

1. Canadian ban of menthol in 2017 lead to “59% of menthol smokers picking up unflavored cigarettes, 20% of the menthol smokers quitting, and nearly the same proportion continuing to buy them on Native reservations, where they still can be sold.”

2. US federal and state tax receipts could decline by “as much as $6.6billion in the first year of a menthol cigarette ban.”

3. “Carol McGruder, co-founder of the African American Tobacco Control Leadership Council, said it’s “shameful” that Mr. Sharpton and others take tobacco funding.”

F.D.A. Moves to Ban Sales of Menthol Cigarettes


PDF with headlines — Google Drive


#1 A graphic guide to justice (9 metaphors on one page).

#2 “39 Songs, Prayers, and Poems: the Keys to the Hearts of Seven Billion People” — Adams House Senior Common Room Presentation, 11/17/20


Please share the most interesting thing you learned in the last week related to health, health care or health care policy — the ethics, economics, politics, history…. Or the coolest, most important thing you learned in your life related to health are or health care policy that the rest of us may have missed. Or just some random health-related fact that blew you away.

This is your chance to make some one’s day. Or to cement in your mind something really important you might otherwise forget. Or to think more deeply than you otherwise would about something that matters.



Passionate about education, thinking citizenship, art, and passing bits on of wisdom of a long lifetime.

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John Muresianu

Passionate about education, thinking citizenship, art, and passing bits on of wisdom of a long lifetime.