The US Food and Drug Administration is taking steps to ban menthol-flavored cigarettes and all flavored cigars, including menthol flavor, within the next year, according to an agency announcement Thursday.
The aim is to "significantly reduce disease and death" from using these two products. Smoking is the leading cause of preventable death in the United States, according to the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
US task force recommends lung cancer screening start earlier, include people with shorter histories of smoking.
"Banning menthol—the last allowable flavor—in cigarettes and banning all flavors in cigars will help save lives, particularly among those disproportionately affected by these deadly products," Acting FDA Commissioner Dr. Janet Woodcock said in a statement. "With these actions, the FDA will help significantly reduce youth initiation, increase the chances of smoking cessation among current smokers, and 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."
The agency said it hopes to have the ban in place in a year. It cannot ban the flavor immediately because the proposed change needs to go through a legal public comment period.
The regulations would only apply to manufacturers, distributors, retailers, wholesalers, and importers so that the product would never make it to the market. The agency cannot take action against individuals who would possess or use menthol tobacco products.
More than a third of all the cigarettes sold in the United States in 2018 -- the last year for which statistics were available -- were menthol flavored, according to the CDC