White House throws cold water on menthol ban

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The rule that was more than decade in the making was divisive from the start, with public health groups urging for it to be finalized while criminal justice organizations warned it unfairly targeted Black smokers who smoke menthols more than other demographics. 


The administration nodded to this back-and-forth in its announcement Friday. 


“This rule has garnered historic attention and the public comment period has yielded an immense amount of feedback, including from various elements of the civil rights and criminal justice movement,” Health and Human Services Secretary Xavier Becerra said in a statement. 


“It’s clear that there are still more conversations to have, and that will take significantly more time,” he said.


Groups who supported the ban accused the administration of bowing to industry and election-year pressures


“In an election year, politicians should be prioritizing people, not profiteers,” said NAACP President and CEO Derrick Johnson. “The NAACP is outraged and disgusted, but we refuse to be deterred. We will continue to do whatever it takes to protect and advance Black life.” 


“Tobacco industry arguments have prevailed over public health. There is no scientific research to support continuing to sell mentholated tobacco products. Menthol acts as an anesthetic making cigarettes easier to start smoking and harder to quit,” said Laurent Huber, executive director of Action on Smoking and Health

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