US anti-smoking groups, frustrated by federal inaction on restricting menthol cigarettes, are taking matters into their own hands, according to a story by Paul Feldman for salon.com.
In recent months, a number of cities are said to have passed laws limiting the availability of menthol cigarettes, which health advocates say have a particular appeal to those starting to smoke. One city voted this month to restrict sales to adult-only tobacco and liquor stores.
“For a long time, everyone hoped that FDA [the Food and Drug Administration] would move forward,” Matthew L. Myers, president of the Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids, was quoted as saying. “As those hopes dissipated, there was a growing consensus that communities needed to act.”
Feldman said that of at least a dozen cities and counties across the nation that had approved restrictions, San Francisco had been the most ambitious. In June, officials there had agreed on an outright sales ban that was supposed to have taken effect in April 2018. But a petition drive funded by R.J. Reynolds, producer of the top-selling menthol brand, Newport, had forced a June 2018 ballot measure on the proposed ban.
If voters supported the ban, other cities might be emboldened to follow San Francisco’s lead. And with menthols accounting for about 30 percent of US cigarette sales, billions of dollars could be riding on the outcome.
The battle stems from a 2009 law that authorized the FDA to regulate tobacco products. The law included a ban on candy, fruit and spice flavors in cigarettes, but Congress exempted menthol while directing the FDA to determine if it, too, should be restricted or banned. A 2013 FDA committee report found it was ‘likely that menthol cigarettes pose a public health risk above that seen with non-menthol cigarettes’.
But the agency has restricted menthol in cigarettes.