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Experts predict that the FDA will likely ban menthol cigarettes this week

The Food and Drug Administration shows up likely to move to ban menthol in cigarettes this week. a step, specialists say, that has been years in the making that might have a significant positive effect on the wellbeing of Black Americans. The FDA's choice would not ban menthol instantly, but rather kick off the rule-making process to do so, which may take years.

When inhaled, menthol produces a cooling sensation in the throat, lessening the cruel taste of cigarettes and the irritation of nicotine. A tremendous majority of Black smokers — 85 percent — use menthol cigarettes. And Black men and women are much less likely than whites to be diagnosed with lung cancer at a prior, potentially more treatable stage. Black men have the highest lung cancer death rate in the nation.

The FDA faces a Thursday court-ordered due date to reply to a citizen petition sent to the agency in 2013 urging it to ban menthol as a flavor in cigarettes. When the FDA failed to act at the time, two groups — the African American Tobacco Control Leadership Council and Action on Smoking and Health — sued.

It's possible a choice could come earlier than Thursday. As a result the lawsuit only mentions regular cigarettes, it's unclear whether electronic cigarettes and other tobacco items that contain menthol would be affected.

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