The Biden administration will announce plans towards banning menthol cigarettes and flavored mass market cigars according to a report from the Washington Post. It’s unclear based on the Post’s reporting if the ban will affect flavored large cigars like ACID, Baccarat and Java, though clarification will likely happen in less than 24 hours.
Tomorrow, the U.S. Food & Drug Administration (FDA) must respond to an FDA citizen petition, a formal process in which the individuals or organizations can request FDA make changes to its policies.
In 2013, dozens of health and anti-tobacco groups filed a petition seeking that FDA explores a ban on menthol cigarettes. Last year, a lawsuit was filed in federal court that argued FDA wasn’t responding to the petition quick enough, which promoted a federal court to require the agency to respond by April 29.
Regardless of whatever the proposed ban might include, it’s unlikely to take effect anytime soon. First, the process for banning menthol cigarettes is one that will likely require some time for FDA itself to develop. It will then have to ask for public comment on the matter, respond to those comments, and then announce a finalized rule.
The Family Smoking Prevention and Tobacco Control Act, the law that gave FDA authority to regulate other tobacco products like cigars, banned all flavored cigarettes except menthol, which was exempted in order to secure the votes needed to pass the law.
At the same time, it seems likely that many of the world’s largest tobacco companies will file lawsuits. Last week, when a report indicated that the Biden administration was considering placing a low limit on the amount of nicotine in cigarettes, Altria lost more than $11 billion in market cap. As part of the response to the citizen petition, the Biden administration must also respond to a request to lower the amount of nicotine allowed in a cigarette, the Washington Post report says the administration will not act on that matter this week.
For the premium cigar industry, the language used in the Washington Post story is interesting. Rather than saying that it would ban “flavored cigars,” “all flavored cigars,” or “flavor in cigars,” it used very specific language:
The administration also is poised to say it will seek to ban menthol and other flavors in mass-produced cigars, including small cigars popular with young people, according to administration officials familiar with the situation who spoke on the condition of anonymity because they are not authorized to discuss it publicly.
That would seem to indicate that there is a difference between flavored large cigars that are sold in humidors and the smaller flavored cigars that are largely produced by machines.