In a trailblazing direction that should continue to shake the tobacco industry, next week the Food and Drug Administration plans to ban menthol cigarettes as part of its aggressive campaign against flavored e-cigarettes and some tobacco products.
The proposal would require the F.D.A. Regulatory labyrinth, and it may take several years for such a restriction to come into effect, especially if the major tobacco companies contest the agency's authority. None of the major tobacco companies would, at this early stage, comment on the possibility of banning menthol cigarettes.
But such a move was long awaited by public health advocates, who were particularly worried about the high proportion of African Americans addicted to menthol cigarettes.
Dr. Scott Gottlieb, Commissioner of the Agency, did not publicly comment on the proposal on Friday. In a recent interview, however, he said the F.D.A. The theme re-emerged, an issue that had been weighed in previous administrations. "It was a mistake for the agency to withdraw to menthol," he said earlier this fall.
Canada has already imposed a ban on menthol cigarettes, and the ban on the European Union is expected to come into force in 2020. This year was in San Francisco issue a ban on the sale of menthol cigarettes and flavored e-cigarettes.
The menthol proposal is just one of several F.D.A. It is planned to announce sometime next week, including a ban on selling most flavored e-cigarettes except menthol and mint at retail stores and gas stations across the country. The products, which include flavors such as chicken waffles and mango, are mainly used for online sales in locations where the agency wants to pass a strict age test to ensure that minors can not buy them.
As e-cigarettes became a booming business and became popular with teenagers and teens, health officials, parents and others became concerned about the increasing use of nicotine-dependent products as an alternative to traditional adult smoking.
The F.D.A. began to target the major e-cigarette manufacturers, in particular Juul Labs, the maker of a popular, eye-catching product that has become ubiquitous in schools and on the street.
Just one day after officials began to issue details on next week's plan to ban sales, Juul Labs announced on Friday that it had decided to pull some of their popular, flavored e-cigarette shells off the shelves.
The steam giant will continue to sell its liquid nicotine pods in mint, menthol and tobacco flavors in brick-and-mortar stores, but will limit other flavors that may be of interest to younger people to online sales.
Juul Labs launched the device, which resembles a flash drive, in 2015 and currently has approximately 77 percent of the US e-cigarette market.
Last month, a competitor Altria said he would stop most of his flavored e-cigarettes and support federal legislation to increase the purchase age of tobacco and steam products to 21.
Senator Chuck Schumer, the Democrat of New York, had been a proponent of such restrictions.
"More needs to be done to fully regulate e-cigs like real cigarettes, but Juul's efforts are a good step to flush out kid-friendly flavors that have fueled nicotine addiction among American teens and can make a difference," Schumer said in an e-mail.
Lisa David, President and Chief Executive of Public Health Solutions, a New York-based, non-profit group specializing in low-income and immigrant family health issues, said she refuses to buy mint and menthol flavors in stores Especially in view of the gateway effect, keep youths steaming and then switching to traditional cigarettes.
"Menthol makes it less hard, and the body absorbs more nicotine," she said. "That means it's easier to start smoking and it's harder to quit."
Ms. David also wondered if Juul's limitation might be too late because there are many similar devices known as "Juul-alikes" that are already on the market.
"Juul has clearly helped young people with e-cigarettes really have a lot to do," said Ms. David. "At this point, there are a number of other versions of the 'Juul-alikes' that have similar shapes and tastes and appeal to the same audience."
The fight against menthol cigarettes has been going on for decades.
According to the Youth Against Menthol campaign by N.A.A.C.P. About 85 percent of Afro-American smokers aged 12 and over use menthol cigarettes, compared with 29 percent of white smokers, which the organization refers to as the result of decades of advertising for tobacco companies.
The most popular menthol brand in the United States is Newport, which is the industry's best-selling cigarette brand, according to R. J. Reynolds Tobacco Company. Imperial Brands has two strong sellers, Kool and Salem. The best-selling cigarette from Altria, Marlboro, is also available in menthol as that of R.J.R.
A spokesman for R. J. Reynolds declined to comment. Altria and Imperial Brands could not be reached immediately.
In a joint statement on Friday, the campaign for tobacco-free children, the American Academy of Pediatrics, the American Lung Association and several other public health organizations said measures against menthol cigarettes were overdue.
"There is overwhelming scientific evidence that menthol cigarettes have had a profound negative impact on public health in the United States, leading to more deaths and illnesses," the organizations said.
Although federal health officials have released new reports this week that traditional smoking has hit a record low since 1965, there are still around 480,000 deaths in the United States.