BATON ROUGE, La. (BRPROUD) — The U.S government released its long-awaited plan to ban menthol cigarettes and flavored cigars. President of nonprofit Truth initiative Robin Koval said when finalized, this move will protect young people and reduce health inequities. 

“There’s still a long way to go but this is such an important step,” said Koval. “We know that they function as a starter product for young people, all flavors do, menthol particularly.” 

Menthol’s cooling effect has been shown to mask the throat harshness of smoking, making it easier to start and harder to quit. The FDA said its elimination could prevent between 300,000 and 650,000 smoking deaths over 40 years, hopefully advancing health equity. 

“85% of Black individuals who smoke, smoke menthols,” said Koval.

Professor of history and public affairs Keith Wailoo said this disproportionate use among Black smokers is no accident, instead, a targeted campaign when it comes to Black communities.

“If you look back at the beginnings of how the tobacco industry began to focus on Black communities in the 1960s, the tactics that they employed will really make your head spin, whether it involved advertising on Black radio advertising in Black newspapers, putting up posters close to the points of purchase,” said Wailoo.

According to the CDC, 18% of adults in Louisiana are smokers, that’s roughly over 650,000 people, in addition, the annual healthcare costs in Louisiana directly caused by smoking are over one billion dollars. 

“It is a proposed rule, we will all have to review it very carefully, there will be a comment period, the FDA will then have to go back and review all those comments before we get to a final rule,” said Koval.