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Biden administration US ban on menthol cigarettes delayed

Published 04/01/2024, 05:01 PM
Updated 04/01/2024, 06:05 PM
© Reuters.

(Reuters) - The U.S. Food and Drug Administration's proposal to ban menthol flavored cigarettes in the United States faced another setback, according to anti-tobacco advocates who noted that White House officials have missed another deadline to issue a final rule on a ban.

The White House declined to comment.

Menthol cigarettes account for a third of the industry's overall market share in the United States. The highly addictive products have been cited for their appeal to young smokers, as well as significant health impacts for Black communities, where they are marketed heavily.

After the FDA in 2022 issued a long-awaited proposal to ban menthol cigarettes, several health and anti-smoking groups urged the Biden administration to enforce it.

The Administration delayed issuing a final rule in December and now has missed the new deadline it set to issue the rule by March 2024, according to a statement on Monday from the Campaign for Tobacco Free Kids and the NAACP, both of which support the FDA's push for a ban of menthol cigarettes.

Civil rights groups have contended for years that menthol cigarettes pose a disproportionately higher risk in Black communities, where they are heavily marketed.

About 81% of Black adults who smoked cigarettes used menthol varieties, compared with 34% of white adults, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

States including Massachuseftts and California have previously banned all flavored tobacco products.

U.S.-focused tobacco company Altria (NYSE:MO) and rival British American Tobacco (NYSE:BTI) both get more than 20% of their revenue from menthol, Morningstar analyst Philip Gorham estimated in notes in March.

Altria has the largest exposure, Gorham said, though British American also has high sales of menthol versions of top brands like Newport.

BAT (LON:BATS) cited uncertainty around the menthol ban as one factor in its decision to write down the value of some of its U.S. cigarette brands last year.

Over 100 organizations, including the NAACP, the American Medical Association, and the American Academy of Pediatrics, placed a full page ad in the Washington Post recently calling on Biden not to further delay the ban.

© Reuters. FILE PHOTO: Newport and Camel cigarettes are stacked on a shelf inside a tobacco store in New York July 11, 2014. REUTERS/Lucas Jackson/File Photo

"It is deeply disappointing that the Biden Administration appears likely to miss another deadline to issue a final FDA rule eliminating menthol cigarettes," Yolonda Richardson, president the Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids, said on Thursday as the deadline approached.

"Research shows that eliminating menthol cigarettes will reduce the number of kids who start smoking, increase the number of smokers who quit, and save up to 654,000 lives within 40 years, including 255,000 Black lives," she said in a statement.

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