RICHMOND, Va. (WRIC) — The United States government released a long-awaited plan to ban menthol cigarettes and flavored cigars Thursday. Health impacts on Black smokers and young people were cited as a reason for the plan.

Altria, one of the world’s largest producers and marketers of cigarettes, is headquartered in Henrico County. The company disagreed with the proposed plan from the government.

Altria’s comment on the proposed FDA rule:

“We believe harm reduction, not prohibition, is the better path forward,” said David Sutton of Altria’s Media Relations. “Taking these products out of the legal marketplace will push them into unregulated, criminal markets that don’t follow any regulations and ignore minimum age laws. We will continue to engage in this long-term regulatory process.”

The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) said eliminating menthol cigarettes could prevent between 300,000 and 650,000 smoking deaths over 40 years.

Menthol accounts for more than a third of cigarettes sold in the U.S, and the mint flavor is favored by Black smokers and young people. Menthol’s cooling effect has been shown to mask the throat harshness of smoking, making it easier to start and harder to quit.

READ MORE ABOUT THE FDA’S PLAN TO BAN MENTHOL IN CIGARETTES AND CIGARS, HERE.