WASHINGTON (AP) — Anti-tobacco advocates are celebrating a big win this week. The Biden administration announced the FDA will move forward with rules to ban the sale of menthol cigarettes.
It’s not just health organization applauding the effort to keep menthol flavored cigarettes off shelves, but also civil rights groups who say the tobacco industry has targeted Black communities for decades.
Erika Sward, Assistant Vice President of National Advocacy for the American Lung Association, is applauding the FDA’s effort to ban the sale of menthol flavored cigarettes.
“Menthol cigarettes are very dangerous. We know that menthol cigarettes make it easier for the poison to go down,” she said.
Sward says the proposed rule is years in the making.
“The scientific board under the Obama administration recommend they be removed,” she said.
The ban comes after a decades old battle with tobacco companies who’ve fought to keep the flavor on the market.
“This is something the industry will not go quiet in the night about,” Sward said.
Already, industry groups like British American tobacco say they plan to fight against the proposed rule, saying in a statement, “we do not believe the published science supports regulating menthol cigarettes differently from non-menthol cigarettes.”
On Friday, White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki defended the administration’s efforts.
“It’s estimated that eliminating menthol and tobacco products could prevent up to 654 thousand deaths,” Psaki said.
She pushed back against criticism that the rule could result in the arrest of Black Americans who disproportionately use the products.
“Because this rule would go after manufacturers and people who sell, not individuals who smoke menthol cigarettes,” said Psaki.
The president of the NAACP is siding with the White House, calling the ban a win for justice. Of course, it will take nearly a year for the rule to be finalized.