GREENSBORO, N.C. — The FDA announced plans this week to ban menthol cigarettes and all flavored cigars.
The federal government argues the move could help curb addiction among people of color and young people.
“The proposed rules would help prevent children from becoming the next generation of smokers and help adult smokers quit,” said Health and Human Services Secretary Xavier Becerra, in a statement.
Wild Tobacco shop in Greensboro said they have a lot of demand for mint-flavored cigarettes. Huthaifa Aladwan is a partner at the shop. He said he understands the health concerns but doesn't see why other flavors would still be allowed.
"Smoking is bad for everybody regardless, menthol or no menthol," Aladwan said.
He said it would hurt his business because he has a high inventory of menthol cigarettes.
"If you're here every day you see that we sell 90 percent menthol to a mix of people," Aladwan said.
Health experts said 85 percent of black smokers use menthols.
"Black folks die disproportionately of heart disease, lung cancer and stroke,” said Phillip Gardiner of the African American Tobacco Control Leadership Council. “Menthol cigarettes and flavored cigars are the main vectors of those diseases in the Black and brown communities, and have been for a long time.”
One menthol customer at Wild Tobacco said he wouldn't smoke any other kinds of cigarettes.
"It would help me quit if you ban them. So ban them, I don't care," Jay Lane said.
It's the response the FDA hopes others will have. They predict a ban on menthols could prevent hundreds of thousands of smoking deaths.
WFMY News 2 reached out to Winston-Salem-based Reynolds American. The company has facilities across the Triad and is a major player in the tobacco industry.
Its parent company issued a statement on the FDA's plans, writing in part - "We strongly believe that there are more effective routes to deliver tobacco harm reduction, than banning menthol in cigarettes."