The United States Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has issued a proposal to ban menthol cigarettes and flavoured cigars to reduce tobacco-related disease and death in the country. The agency believes that these actions would help prevent children from becoming the next generation of smokers and help adult smokers quit. Combusted tobacco product use is considered the leading cause of preventable death in the U.S.
"Additionally, the proposed rules represent an important step to advance health equity by significantly reducing tobacco-related health disparities," said Health and Human Services Secretary Xavier Becerra.
The proposed product standards will prohibit menthol as a characterizing flavor in cigarettes as well as all characterizing flavors (other than tobacco) in cigars. The FDA noted that these proposed rules are based on clear science and evidence establishing the addictiveness and harm of these products and build on the Family Smoking Prevention and Tobacco Control Act, which prohibited all characterizing flavors (other than tobacco and menthol) in cigarettes in 2009.
Further, the agency mentioned that tobacco use is a leading cause of cancer and death from cancer, and approximately 30 per cent of all cancer deaths in the US are caused by smoking. The proposed ban is predicted to reduce the death rate from cancer by at least 50 per cent over the next 25 years.
FDA Commissioner Robert M. Califf, M.D, said, "The authority to adopt tobacco product standards is one of the most powerful tools Congress gave the FDA and the actions we are proposing can help significantly reduce youth initiation and increase the chances that current smokers quit. It is clear that these efforts will help save lives."
Menthol cigarettes, flavored cigars lure young people into smoking
Anti-smoking advocates have been arguing that menthol cigarettes play a role in attracting young people into smoking.
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FDA said, "Menthol is a flavor additive with a minty taste and aroma that reduces the irritation and harshness of smoking. This increases appeal and makes menthol cigarettes easier to use, particularly for youth and young adults. Menthol also interacts with nicotine in the brain to enhance nicotine's addictive effects. The combination of menthol's flavor, sensory effects and interaction with nicotine in the brain increases the likelihood that youth who start using menthol cigarettes will progress to regular use. Menthol also makes it more difficult for people to quit smoking."
According to the agency, the US had more than 18.5 million current menthol cigarette smokers ages 12 and older in 2019. High rates of use of menthol cigarette were seen among youth, young adults, and African American and other racial and ethnic groups.
Studies have projected a 15 per cent reduction in smoking within 40 years if menthol cigarettes were no longer available in the US. It is also estimated that 324,000 to 654,000 smoking attributable deaths could be avoided over the same period, with ban on menthol cigarettes.
According to the FDA, more than a half million youth in the U.S. use flavored cigars and more young people have tried a cigar than a cigarette in recent years.
The agency claimed that characterizing flavors in cigars, such as strawberry, grape, cocoa and fruit punch, make cigars easier to use and increase appeal, particularly among youth and young adults.
However, the proposed regulations do not include a prohibition on individual consumer possession or use of menthol cigarettes or flavored cigars. The rules will only be enforced against manufacturers, distributors, wholesalers, importers and retailers who manufacture, distribute, or sell such products within the U.S.
What do you think about these proposed rules?
The FDA is seeking comments from the public on these proposed rules, which it will review to decide whether to issue final product standards. People can submit either electronic or written comments on the same beginning May 4 through July 5.
Sharing his opinion on this, Dr Behram Pardiwala, Director Internal Medicine, Wockhardt Hospital, Mumbai Central, said, "I don't think tobacco companies in India manufacture menthol cigarettes and flavoured cigars. But I support the decision of the FDA as such products not only encourage young people to smoke, but also contains harmful chemicals."
Dr. Sitanshu Singh, Founder, Yessthetics Face & Oral Hospital, commented, "Menthol, due to its flavour is easily adapted by children and young adults and thereby making children addicted or give themselves into smoking. Menthol not only makes smoking favourable for children due to its taste but also interacts with nicotine to create more addictive effects in brain . This is a very powerful move by the FDA and must be strictly followed."