Feature

The FDA’s flavored-cigarette ban

Will a new ban on cloves be effective, when the FDA left menthol cigarettes alone?

What happenedThe Food and Drug Administration banned the sale of clove-, fruit-, and candy-flavored cigarettes, effective Tuesday, in an effort to close a “gateway” to smoking by young people. The ban was the FDA’s first flexing of regulatory authority gained under a smoking-prevention law that was approved in June (Los Angeles Times).

What the commentators saidNow that “would-be hipsters" won’t be “puffing on clove cigarettes and strawberry bidis anymore,” said Lita Beck in NBC Dallas, the anti-tobacco fight is moving on to differentiating between clove cigarettes and clove cigars, and the more politically touchy issue of menthol, “by far the most popular cigarette flavor,” which isn't covered in the ban.

Without a menthol ban, “criminalizing the sale of smokes with flavors like strawberry and vanilla” doesn’t do much good, said The Minnesota Daily in an editorial. It does, however, let “tobacco monolith” and menthol purveyor Philip Morris—which “shrewdly” backed FDA control over tobacco—use the FDA to freeze smaller, often foreign competitors out of the U.S. market.

The lack of a menthol ban is a shame, said The Louisville Courier-Journal in an editorial, but even though other flavored smokes make up just “a small niche in the cigarette market,” it’s a niche aimed squarely at tempting teenagers. Besides, smoking bans of any scope are worth pursuing—two large studies just found, independently, that cities that curbed smoking in public spaces had 17 percent fewer heart attacks after a year.

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