The Biden administration is expected to announce a regulatory plan today, April 28, that will culminate in a national ban of menthol cigarettes and all flavored cigarettes, a policy that has been two decades in the making, reports the Wall Street Journal.
Menthol cigarettes make up roughly one-third of all cigarettes sold annually in the U.S., and health officials have concluded that a ban would reduce youth smoking, improve the quit rate for existing smokers, and help to address the health disparities caused by smoking between racial groups. The National Survey on Drug Use and Health found that within the U.S. smoking population in 2020, 81% of menthol smokers were Black and 51% were Hispanic.
The FDA has been working to ban menthol cigarettes for over 20 years, with official findings in 2013 that menthols were both harder to quit and posed a greater health risk than regular cigarettes. The Obama administration banned the use of candy-, fruit-, and spice-flavored cigarettes in 2009 because of the greater appeal they posed for children, but left menthols to be addressed separately.
Menthol smokers typically tend to be younger on average, providing cigarette manufacturers with a longer lifetime user, and the popularity of menthol cigarettes has grown from 30.5% in 2005 to 43% in 2020, according to WSJ research.
The ban, once announced by the FDA, will be open for public commentary and then review, and wouldn’t go into effect until 2024 at the earliest. It’s set to be the biggest move regarding smoking that the government will have made since it was able to take regulatory control of the tobacco industry back in 2009. A study from the University of Waterloo in Canada has estimated that a menthol ban would result in smoking cessation for 1.3 million people within the first four months to two years.
“The day of reckoning for menthol has finally come,” said Mitch Zeller, the recently retired former director of the FDA’s Center for Tobacco Products.
Investing in Heart Health With HART
The link between smoking and heart disease, cancer, and strokes has been long established, with smoking being a main contributor to all three; these three are the leading causes of death for the Black population, according to the CDC. The CDC has also found that Black individuals die more due to smoking-related cancers than any other population group in the U.S.
Over 16 million people die each year from heart disease in the U.S., and cardiovascular disease is the number one killer globally. Over 127 million Americans over the age of 20 currently live with the condition. The IQ Healthy Hearts ETF (HART) focuses on the companies and industries working to improve heart health and promote healthier lives while also donating portions of its profits to the American Heart Association.
HART seeks to provide exposure to companies that diagnose and treat cardiovascular disease, companies that have above-average involvement in healthy food and wellness products, companies that offer solutions for people looking to track their fitness and participate in regular exercise, and companies that provide health education resources through IT services.
The fund seeks to track the IQ Candriam Healthy Hearts Index and invests across all market caps in the U.S. and emerging markets. It does exclude some countries, including China. Companies are screened thematically for heart health-related revenue and/or impact to heart health objectives as laid out by the fund. The index also utilizes an exclusionary screen for companies that aren’t compliant with the UN Global Compact or engage in certain activities such as animal testing, nuclear exposure, and gambling. Companies that operate in countries with oppressive regimes are also excluded.
HART carries an expense ratio of 0.45% and currently invests in 80 companies.
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