The polarizing politics of the FDA’s proposed menthol cigarette ban
Supporters of the measure say it will save lives and reduce addiction. Critics say it will give law enforcement another reason to profile Black people and split the Democratic Party.
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Today’s top story is on the politics of the FDA’s proposed ban on menthol cigarettes. But first, let’s catch up on the news:
Moderna became the first manufacturer to ask the Food and Drug Administration to authorize its coronavirus vaccine for children under six — the only population group still ineligible for vaccination. The company said it would finish submitting data to regulators by May 9.
The Biden administration requested $33 billion in supplemental funding for assistance to Ukraine through the end of the fiscal year in September. The dollars would go to military, economic and humanitarian aid and domestic food production assistance.
President Biden gave the clearest public indication that he is leaning towards canceling some student debt through executive action. “I am considering dealing with some debt reduction. I am not considering [a] $50,000 debt reduction,” Biden said on Thursday. “But I’m in the process of taking a hard look at whether or not there will be additional debt forgiveness, and I’ll have an answer on that in the next couple of weeks.”
The US economy experienced a 1.4 percent decline in growth for the first three months of the year, the first downturn since the pandemic hit. Economists believe we’re not headed for a recession though and that the fundamentals for the US economy are strong, despite challenges from the pandemic, the war in Ukraine and the Federal Reserve’s plans to raise interest rates to fight inflation.
Federal investigators found that tens of thousands of people enrolled in private Medicare Advantage plans are denied necessary care that should be covered under the program. Advantage plans have become an increasingly popular option among older Americans because they offer privatized versions of Medicare that are frequently less expensive and provide a wider range of benefits than the traditional government-run program offers. (Reed Abelson / NYT)
Congressional Democrats announced plans to introduce legislation against price gouging by Big Oil companies in its latest attempt to bring down gas prices. “We're doing two things. “We’re shining a spotlight, we’re picking up the hood and shining a spotlight on how these corporations price and function,” House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said during a press conference. “And then we're giving the authorities, the [Federal Trade Commission] and others, the tools to fix what was wrong once they found it. Plain and simple.”
House Democratic Leader Steny Hoyer and Democratic Rep. Barbara Lee of California hosted a Poverty Task Force meeting with experts on the role of universal pre-K and other early interventions in reducing long-term child poverty. “We know that the first five years of a child’s social and cognitive development is critical,” Lee said in a statement. “It’s far past time this country provides high-quality, free, and inclusive preschool programs to all children.”
Oklahoma lawmakers passed a six-week abortion ban modeled after a Texas law, which allows private citizens to enforce the measure through civil action instead of challenging abortion providers through the criminal courts. The ban is the latest in a coordinated effort by Republican-led state legislatures to restrict abortion care. (Veronica Stracqualursi / CNN)
New research suggests it’s unwise to assume dogs will display specific personalities simply because they are the same breed or to presume behaviors are exclusive to any specific breed. In fact, scientists believe the majority of behaviors assumed to be characteristics of a certain dog type actually predate the origin of breeds. (Sarah Sloat / NBC News)
Here’s what else you need to know today:
President Biden this morning will receive his daily intelligence briefing. This afternoon, he will hold a phone call with President Andrés Manuel López Obrador of Mexico to discuss a range of issues, including their vision for the Ninth Summit of the Americas and cooperation on migration. Then Biden will join a meeting with Inspectors General on federal government oversight, accountability and transparency.
The House is out.
The Senate is out.
Now back to today’s top story:
The Food and Drug Administration on Thursday announced a proposed ban on menthol cigarettes and flavored cigars in a move it says will significantly reduce disease and death from tobacco use, which is the leading cause of preventable death in the US.
The agency said the move would also reduce youth experimentation and addiction and increase the number of smokers that quit.
Prominent lawmakers and advocacy groups expressed immediate support for the ban.
“I pushed for years for the FDA to ban menthol cigarettes and flavored cigars for a really simple reason: It will prevent people, especially our kids, from getting addicted to nicotine, help hundreds of thousands of smokers quit — and ultimately save lives,” Democratic Sen. Patty Murray of Washington, who chairs the committee with oversight responsibility of the FDA, said in a statement to Supercreator.
The NAACP also applauded the FDA’s plan.
“For decades, the tobacco industry has been targeting African Americans and have contributed to the skyrocketing rates of heart disease, stroke and cancer across our community. The tobacco industry is on a narrow quest for profit, and they have been killing us along the way,” NAACP President Derrick Johnson said in a statement. “It’s about time we prioritize the health and well-being of African Americans.
Menthol, a chemical naturally found in peppermint and other mint plants, was first added to tobacco in the 1920s and 1930s, according to the American Lung Association.
Contrary to what Big Tobacco marketing messaging suggests, menthol cigarettes offer no health benefits compared to non-menthol cigarettes and the minty taste and odor can mask the early warning symptoms of smoking-induced respiratory problems.
And because it reduces the harshness of cigarette smoke and the irritation from nicotine, tobacco companies have relied on the soothing and cooling effects of menthol to make cigarettes more appealing to new smokers, youth and certain racial and ethnic groups.
Of the 18.9 million people who currently smoke menthol cigarettes, 85 percent are Black people. And almost half of Hispanic smokers use menthols — the same is true for youth smokers ages 12-17. Meanwhile, two in five Asian smokers prefer menthol cigarettes and their prevalence is high among the LGBTQ community compared to among straight people.
For all the ban’s fans, there are noteworthy critics.
Tax experts estimate state and federal governments could lose up to almost $7 billion in the first year.
And in a letter to White House Domestic Policy Director Susan Rice, Rev. Al Sharpton warned that prohibiting menthol cigarettes could push Black smokers into the illicit market, which would lead to racially profiling and “place [Black] menthol smokers at a significant risk of entering the criminal justice system.”
White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki pointed to estimates that eliminating menthol and tobacco products could prevent up to 654,000 deaths over the next 40 years and up to 238,000 deaths among African Americans in her defense of the proposal.
“This is not about going after individuals smoking menthol cigarettes,” she said. “This is about manufacturers and people who are selling them.”
The National Action Network, a civil rights group founded by Rev. Sharpton, did not respond to a request for comment from Supercreator on the FDA’s decision.
Democratic Rep. Frederica Wilson of Florida questioned the timing of the proposed ban since she believes it could split the Black community ahead of a midterm cycle that will rely on unified turnout from the Democratic Party’s most reliable voting bloc to offset what’s predicted to be a Republican electoral onslaught.
“This is a public health decision made by the FDA,” Psaki said. “And the objective of it was not to address politics or handle politics in one way or another, but to save lives.”
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