The Federal Drug Administration announced Thursday that it is moving to ban menthol-flavored tobacco products within the next year. The agency has made several attempts to ban the mint flavor in the past, but has faced resistance from Big Tobacco. Last summer, medical groups filed a lawsuit that forced the FDA to respond to a 2013 petition to ban the flavor—and the announcement Thursday comes as an answer to that lawsuit. If implemented, the ban would make it illegal to sell the product. The FDA cannot enforce against individual consumer possession, a statement says. The ban will help “address health disparities experienced by communities of color, low-income populations, and LGBTQ+ individuals, all of whom are far more likely to use these tobacco products,” said FDA commissioner Janet Woodcock.
According to the statement released by the agency, 85 percent of Black smokers use menthol-flavored products. Additionally, a research paper cited in the FDA’S statement says that a ban on menthol-flavored products would “lead an additional 923,000 smokers to quit, including 230,000 African Americans in the first 13 to 17 months after a ban goes into effect.”