The Biden administration is once again delaying the menthol cigarette ban amid political concerns

The Biden administration is again delaying the menthol cigarette ban amid political pressure and complaints from some advocates who say it unfairly targets black smokers who favor the products.

This rule has drawn historic attention, and the public comment period has generated an immense amount of feedback, including from various elements of the civil rights and criminal justice movements, Health and Human Services Secretary Xavier Becerra said in a statement Friday. . It is clear that there are still more conversations to be had, and this will take much more time.

Federal officials stressed the ban could still be finalized this year, but public health experts said they were frustrated that a ban once debated within the Obama administration remains under review.

Another delay is devastating, David Margolius, Cleveland’s director of public health, wrote in a text message. About 35 percent of adults in metro Cleveland smoke cigarettes, more than three times the national average, and smoking is the number one cause of death. 15 years late.

Public health experts and civil rights groups have repeatedly urged President Biden to end the ban, which was initially planned last summer but has been opposed by the tobacco industry. Political advisers have warned that Biden could lose support by banning popular products in the black community, jeopardizing votes in what is expected to be a close election in November.

In 2009, Congress and the Obama administration banned other flavored cigarettes but left menthol products on the market, which are smoked by about 19 million Americans. Cigarettes are disproportionately popular in the black community, with more than 80 percent of black smokers choosing menthol brands in 2020, compared to 34 percent of white smokers, according to data cited by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention . Public health officials have said menthol cigarettes are particularly addictive because they enhance the effect of nicotine on the brain, creating a cooling sensation that makes the smoke feel less harsh and easier to inhale.

The Food and Drug Administration, which developed the ban, has said it remains committed to implementing the rules, pending White House approval. Outside advocates have said there is no evidence the ban will harm Biden’s re-election prospects and clear evidence of its public health benefits.

There is no reason to further delay a policy that has been studied for more than 12 years, is supported by overwhelming scientific evidence, and will save hundreds of thousands of lives, said Yolonda C. Richardson, president and CEO of the Tobacco Campaign. -Free Kids and NAACP President and CEO Derrick Johnson in a joint statement this month. Make no mistake: delays cost lives, especially black lives.

Federal officials previously touted the effort as part of President Biden’s Cancer Initiative, which aims to reduce the threat of cancer, America’s second leading cause of death.

The planned crackdown on menthol cigarettes would represent the most significant regulatory actions yet to limit the number of deaths and illnesses from highly addictive and dangerous tobacco products on the market today, the White House said in a March 2022 fact sheet. The White House said last year that the planned ban could prevent up to 654,000 deaths, including about 238,000 in the black community over the next four decades. The FDA finalized the ban last year and sent it to the White House for final review.

But officials pushed back the ban to December 2023, missing a self-imposed deadline to end it in March. The African American Tobacco Control Leadership Council and two other anti-tobacco groups sued the FDA this month over the delays, alleging that federal officials have unfairly and illegally delayed the rescue measures.

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