The FDA’s promised menthol ban is about to face a critical test
By Nicholas Florko, STAT
March 1- The FDA is finally moving forward with a long-promised regulation banning menthol cigarettes, according to a website maintained by the White House office that reviews regulations before they are published.
Even this tiny, early step is a major victory for public health groups, which have been locked in a multi-year legal battle with the FDA attempting to force the agency to ban menthol products.
But the regulation will still face a major test: Escaping the White House Office of Management and Budget’s clearance process unscathed. After all, OMB has widespread power to kill or waterdown controversial regulations, and it’s done so before on tobacco issues: The Obama administration’s efforts to ban flavored vaping products was stymied by the OMB amid a pressure campaign from tobacco companies.
“In administrations past, OMB is where regulations go to die,” said Matt Myers, the president of the Campaign for Tobacco Free Kids, which supports a menthol ban. “This administration has made a commitment to move forward on this specific rule, and what OMB does will be a critical test of their commitment.”
The review process will also mark one of the first tests for Robert Califf, the newly minted FDA commissioner, who will likely have to work political levers to make sure the regulation is released quickly. Califf oversaw earlier efforts to ban flavored products during his last sint at the FDA during the Obama administration, and had previously shown himself unable to combat the tobacco industry’s pressure. Back then, when Califf was asked why the Obama White House had killed the flavor vaping ban, he told the New York Times he simply did not know.