The Biden administration is pushing a planned end-of-the-year ban on menthol cigarettes into 2024, in a blow to health advocates who worked to limit access sooner in an effort to save lives. Photo by Alexis C. Glenn/UPI | License Photo
Dec. 6 (UPI) -- The Biden administration is pushing a planned end-of-the-year ban on menthol cigarettes into 2024, in a blow to health advocates who worked to limit access sooner in an effort to save lives.
The White House updated its Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs website Wednesday, without an announcement, stating that a final ban on menthol will not take place until March at the earliest. The decision comes after civil rights groups argued that the ban would target Black smokers.
"I don't know how Black Lives Matter if you're willing to put 45,000 lives at risk by keeping menthol cigarettes on the market," Yolanda Richardson, president of the Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids, said Wednesday.
The group National Association of Blacks in Criminal Justice recently ran ads -- sponsored by tobacco-maker Reynolds American -- opposing the menthol ban, as the National Action Network also voiced concerns.
"National Action Network has taken the position that, unless there are real safeguards against criminal prosecution of Black and Brown communities, the proposed menthol ban will have unintended consequences," the group wrote in a statement.
"We believe prohibition does not work, and criminalizing menthol will lead to serious unintended consequences. We also believe the science and evidence does not support bans on menthol cigarettes and characterizing flavors in cigars," cigarette manufacturer Altria added.
The Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids and the American Lung Association are among a number of public health organizations that have been pushing for a menthol tobacco ban for more than a decade, saying the flavors -- which produce a cooling sensation in the throat -- appeal to younger smokers.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, menthol can enhance the addictive effects of cigarettes, making it more difficult to quit.
"It's heartbreaking," Emily Holubowich, the American Heart Association's national senior vice president of federal advocacy, said Wednesday. "We know these products kill."
Chrissie Juliano, executive director of the Big Cities Health Coalition, said the argument that a menthol ban would criminalize Black smokers is wrong since it would only apply to manufacturing and distribution.
"These regulations do not suggest in any way shape or form that individuals would bear the brunt of any enforcement," Juliano said. "We can't reduce tobacco use and associated disease and death without eliminating menthol as a flavor. That's really the next step."