The FDA says menthols are likely associated with "increased smoking initiation by young people because the cooling properties of menthol mask the harshness of cigarette smoke".
The FDA must respond, by Thursday, to a 2013 citizens' petition that demands the tobacco product be taken off of shelves. The FDA is expected to answer that petition by Thursday. The ban would be a massive undertaking, perhaps taking years to implement. About 19.5 million Americans smoke menthol cigarettes.
Tobacco industry leaders are expected to fight the ban in court, raising concerns about illegal markets and contraband tobacco. Civil rights groups are also warning President Joe Biden that the move to ban menthols could negatively affect minority communities and has the potential to create "large underground, illegal markets." Among African-American smokers, almost 86 per cent smoke menthols.
A letter sent to Health and Human Services Secretary Xavier Becerra that calls for a rethink to the proposed ban was signed by prominent African-American civil rights organizations, including the ACLU. "A menthol cigarette ban would disproportionately impact communities of color, result in criminalization of the market, and exacerbate mass incarceration," the letter warned.
Biden has been criticized in the past for "underestimating Black voters' ability to think for themselves."