The Food and Drug Administration proposed a new rule to ban menthol cigarettes and flavored cigars.
“Through careful consideration of the scientific evidence and our authorities under the Tobacco Control Act, we’ve determined that these actions are appropriate for protection of the public health,” FDA Commissioner Dr. Robert Califf said to a Senate subcommittee.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention smoking rates in the U.S. reached an all-time low in 2018, yet it is still the top cause of preventable death, disease and disability. Cigarette smoking is responsible for more than 480,000 deaths per year in the U.S.
About 18.6 million people smoke menthols in the U.S. which represents 36% of all smokers, according to the FDA. Among menthol consumers there is a disproportionate number are people of color. FDA said cutting them out could have a significant effect on the number of smokers and prevent 650,000 premature deaths over the next 40 years.
Menthol cigarettes are banned in many states, including California. The FDA said the public can submit their comments on the rule through July 5 from May 5.
The long-awaited proposal is seen as a major victory for anti-smoking advocates. A strong response by tobacco companies is expected next.