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FDA submits proposal to ban menthol cigarettes

February 28, 2022 at 4:00 a.m.

WASHINGTON, DC – FEBRUARY 25, 2022 – After many years of delay and a directive from a federal judge, today the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) submitted its proposed rule to ban menthol as a characterizing flavor in tobacco products to the Office of Management and Budget (OMB), a necessary step before publicly proposing the rule. Action on Smoking and Health urges OMB to expedite their analysis to save more Americans.

"Every day menthol tobacco products remain on the market, more people become addicted to products that are likely to eventually kill them," said Kelsey Romeo-Stuppy, Managing Attorney at ASH. "It's time for this madness to end and public health to take priority over corporate profits."

Menthol cigarettes disproportionately harm Black Americans and contribute substantially to health inequity due to decades of intense, targeted marketing by tobacco companies. As a Reynold's Tobacco executive once said in a moment of candor, "We don't smoke that shit! We just sell it. We reserve the right to smoke for the young, the poor, the black and the stupid."

Menthol makes smoking initiation easier because it acts as an anesthetic which causes the toxic chemicals and smoke in cigarettes to be inhaled deeper, in turn making menthol cigarettes more difficult to quit.

In 2009, Congress passed the Family Smoking Prevention and Tobacco Control Act, giving FDA authority over tobacco products for the first time and banning the sale of most flavored cigarettes, exempting only menthol. However, the legislation explicitly instructed the FDA to analyze the health impact of menthol cigarettes and, if menthol was found to be harmful to public health, move forward to ban menthol as a top priority. In spite of mountains of evidence demonstrating the harm of menthol, the FDA did nothing for more than a decade.

In 2020, Action on Smoking and Health (ASH) and the African American Tobacco Control Leadership Council (AATCLC) filed a lawsuit against FDA to force their hand on menthol. They were later joined by the American Medical Association and the National Medical Association.

In April 2021, a federal judge ordered the FDA to propose a rule banning menthol within one year. There has been broad support for the FDA to ban menthol, and that court deadline is coming up in late April 2022.

"Banning the cigarette flavors that white people prefer but leaving menthol, the flavor preferred by African Americans, on the market was racism set in policy," said Laurent Huber, ASH Executive Director. "It shouldn't have required a lawsuit for FDA to do what its own research showed to be in the interest of public health and health equity."

Print Headline: FDA submits proposal to ban menthol cigarettes

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