The Food and Drug Administration on Thursday proposed a ban on menthol cigarettes and flavored cigars after a very public debate over whether to prohibit them.
Under the ruling, menthol would be prohibited as a “characterizing flavor in cigarettes.” Additionally, all characterizing flavors, with the exception of tobacco, would be banned in cigars.
The proposed ban stands to have an impact on the tobacco market as a whole. Menthol cigarettes make up over one-third of the cigarette market in the U.S., according to the Kaiser Health Foundation.
Supporters of the ban argue that it will save lives by lowering smoking rates across the board.
“The proposed rules would help prevent children from becoming the next generation of smokers and help adult smokers quit,” Health and Human Services Secretary Xavier Becerra said in a statement.
“Additionally, the proposed rules represent an important step to advance health equity by significantly reducing tobacco-related health disparities,” he continued.
However, the ban’s critics argue that it will result in the illegal selling of the cigarettes, stretching law enforcement thin. Various civil rights figures, including the Rev. Al Sharpton and attorney Ben Crump, have warned that it could result in negative interactions between police and the Black community. Black and Hispanic smokers tend to prefer menthol cigarettes to other types.
“How could anybody ignore interactions between police [and the Black community] if they’re increased because of a ban?” Sharpton said in a recent interview with The Hill. “If a policeman sees a guy standing on the corner smoking a Kool, he’s asking ‘Where did you get that from?’ and that will lead to interaction.”