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Anti-smoking groups still seek FDA ruling banning menthol cigarettes


A federal law passed in 2009 banned flavored cigarettes —- except menthol

Anti-smoking groups want to see the FDA issue a final rule banning menthol cigarettes later this year. It issued draft regulations a year ago. Advocates say the tobacco industry has used menthol for decades as an appeal to minorities and teens.

Dr. Phillip Gardiner of the African American Tobacco Control Leadership Council said he is skeptical.

“They’re supposed to make a ruling on this in August but if history is any predictor of what’s to come they aren’t going to do anything in August,” he said, “they’re gonna put it off again and you should be aware that my group is prepared to relitigate, to reopen our case against them.”

Gardiner’s group sued the FDA in 2020 to get it to take action banning menthol cigarettes. In 2009, the Family Smoking Prevention and Tobacco Control Act banned flavored cigarettes — except for menthol.

“There was no rational reason for continuing menthol and so because the FDA has terminal inertia it’s time for other advocates to bring menthol and the harm of cigarettes back to the front of people’s attention,” said Dr. Sylvia Gates Carlisle of the Association of Black Women Physicians.

Researchers have concluded that a ban on menthol would close the gap in lung cancer death rates between Blacks and other groups within five years.

Gardiner said even if there is a ruling, the fight is not over.

“Even if they were to make a ruling on something later this year or even early into next year there’ll be a whole period of public comment on it, and we know what will also happen, the tobacco industry will sue to block the implementation of it,” he said.

Janice Kirkel is a lifelong award-winning journalist who has done everything from network newscasts to national and local sports reports to business newscasts to specialized reporting and editing in technical areas of business and finance such as bankruptcy, capital structure changes and reporting on the business of the investment business.