Food and Drug Administration sends White House office proposed regulations banning menthol cigarettes and flavored cigars

On Friday, the Food and Drug Administration sent the White House Office of Management & Budget its long-in-the-making regulations that would ban the sale of menthol cigarettes and flavored cigars.

OMB “serves as a clearinghouse of sorts for executive actions like this,” notes Halfwheel, a cigar site. “While the Biden administration is in favor of both bans, OMB is also likely to add scrutiny to FDA’s plans, including asking the agency questions about the economic impacts of the bans—both for the government and businesses—as well as questioning certain legal aspects of the proposal. Historically, OMB has also been a place where the tobacco industry has lobbied to try to soften the impact of rules.”

Ten years ago, citizens petitioned the FDA for impose the bans, and went to federal court to force the agency to act. Ordered to respond by April 29, 2021, the FDA said “it was planning on banning both flavored cigars and menthol cigarettes, plans that it said would be announced within a year,” Halfwheel notes. “Nearly a year to the date—April 28, 2022—FDA announced that it was moving forward with both proposed regulations, starting the formal rulemaking process that the agency must follow when it crafts new regulations. This included creating proposed rules, as well as allowing for comments about the proposed rules. The commenting period ended in early August 2022.”

Menthol cigarettes made up 36% of all cigarette sales in the U.S. in 2018. Anti-smoking groups have cited research that shows cigarette companies have deliberately targeted African American communities, especially youth, with marketing menthol cigarettes, cigars and other tobacco products. Menthol products also have a strong appeal for youth, since menthol numbs the throat and reduces irritation from smoking and makes it easier for them to start smoking.

Once the rules clear OMB, expected before the end of the year, they would not take effect for a year, FDA has said. “The tobacco industry is likely to sue FDA and will likely ask for an injunction until after those lawsuits are resolved, further delaying the enforcement,” Halfwheel reports.
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