Posted on April 30, 2024

Biden Officials Indefinitely Postpone Ban on Menthol Cigarettes Amid Election-Year Pushback

Matthew Perrone and Zeke Miller, Associated Press, April 26, 2024

President Joe Biden’s administration is indefinitely delaying a long-awaited menthol cigarette ban, a decision that infuriated anti-smoking advocates but could avoid a political backlash from Black voters in November.

In a statement Friday, Biden’s top health official gave no timeline for issuing the rule, saying only that the administration would take more time to consider feedback, including from civil rights groups.


“This decision prioritizes politics over lives, especially Black lives,” said Yolonda Richardson of the Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids, in an emailed statement. “It is especially disturbing to see the administration parrot the false claims of the tobacco industry about support from the civil rights community.”

Richardson noted that the ban is supported by groups including the NAACP and the Congressional Black Caucus.


Anti-smoking advocates have been pushing the FDA to eliminate the flavor since the agency gained authority to regulate certain tobacco ingredients in 2009. Menthol is the only cigarette flavor that wasn’t banned under that law, a carveout negotiated by industry allies in Congress. {snip}

More than 11% of U.S. adults smoke, with rates roughly even between white and Black people. But about 80% of Black smokers smoke menthol, which the FDA says masks the harshness of smoking, making it easier to start and harder to quit. {snip}

For decades, tobacco companies focused menthol advertising and promotions in Black communities, sponsoring music festivals and neighborhood events. {snip}


{snip} Rev. Al Sharpton and other civil rights leaders have warned that a menthol ban would create an illegal market for the cigarettes in Black communities and invite more confrontations with police.