LONDON - MAY 16:  In this photo illustration a cigarette is seen burning on May 16, 2007 in London. Businesses and shops are gearing up for the introduction of the smoking ban on July 1 in England after similar bans have been introduced in Ireland, Scotland and Wales.  (Photo Illustration by Bruno Vincent/Getty Images)
What tobacco does to your health (2017)
01:07 - Source: CNN
CNN  — 

The US Food and Drug Administration is expected to announce a proposed rule this week to ban menthol from cigarettes, as well as to ban flavored cigars. It’s a step that public health officials say is essential to protect public health.

“I’m really excited about the possibility. At our foundation, we’ve cared about issues of smoking and preventable deaths for so long,” said Dr. Richard Besser, a former director of the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention who now serves as the president of the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, a public health advocacy organization.

“To see an issue that disproportionately affects African American smokers, disproportionately affects women, LGBT people who smoke, lower-income individuals. To say that these lives count just as much as any other life and a preventable death, that gives me real, real hope.”

Menthol by the numbers

Menthol is an equity issue that the FDA has been considering for more than a decade.

About 18.6 million people smoke menthols in the US. That’s about 36% of all smokers, according to the FDA, and a disproportionate number are people of color.

About 30% of White smokers choose menthols, but they are by far the cigarette of choice for nearly 85% of smokers who are Black. About 40% of women smoke menthols, compared with 31% of men, according to the FDA.