Advocacy groups like Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids have applauded the Food and Drug Administration’s (FDA) April proposal to ban menthol cigarettes and flavored cigars.
Last month, the Campaign said in a statement that the ban is long overdue and will save lives – especially among Black Americans.
Matthew L. Myers, president of Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids, said the minority community had suffered enormous harm from the predatory marketing of these products.
“For decades, the tobacco industry has deliberately targeted Black communities with marketing for menthol cigarettes, with tragic consequences,” Myers said.
“The industry also uses these flavored products to lure kids into a deadly addiction. These rules will, once and for all, put an end to these predatory and deadly practices.”
The Campaign said the proposed rules from the FDA are supported by scientific evidence that the ban will improve the public health of the U.S. and that eliminating menthol cigarettes will protect kids from tobacco addiction.
Menthol cools and numbs the throat and masks the harshness of tobacco smoke, making it easier for kids to start smoking and eventually become addicted.
According to the 2021 National Youth Tobacco Survey, 41% of all current high school smokers use menthol cigarettes.
In addition, a 2021 study found that menthol cigarettes were responsible for 10.1 million additional smokers and 378,000 premature deaths in the U.S. from 1980 to 2018.
Moreover, the research showed that Black Americans had been disproportionately harmed. While making up just 12% of the U.S. population, Black Americans represented 41% of the premature deaths due to menthol cigarettes – 157,000 premature deaths among Black Americans altogether.
Tobacco use claims an estimated 45,000 Black lives each year.
Mainly because of more addictive menthol cigarettes, Black smokers have a more challenging time quitting smoking and die at higher rates from tobacco-related diseases like cancer, heart disease and stroke, said The Campaign.
“The Biden Administration and the FDA deserve immense credit for standing up to the tobacco industry and moving forward with this bold, lifesaving policy, as they promised to do one year ago,” Myers said.
“Once implemented, these rules will represent some of the strongest actions our nation has ever taken to drive down the number of kids who start smoking and the number of Americans who are sickened and killed by tobacco.”
The tobacco industry has vehemently pushed back on the proposed ban, saying it will subject Black Americans to an increase of law enforcement abuse.
However, the FDA said its rules will apply to manufacturers and retailers but “cannot and will not enforce against any individual consumer possession or use of menthol cigarettes or any tobacco product.”
Along with The Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids, there is support for the ban from a wide range of organizations, scientists and elected officials – including from leading Black organizations and members of Congress.
Supporters include the NAACP, other Black civil rights and public health organizations, members of the Congressional Black Caucus, and a broad coalition of 77 public health, medical, education and community organizations.
In a letter this month, NAACP President and CEO Derrick Johnson stated:
“We do not agree with the tobacco industry’s message and strategy presented by a few Black leaders: prohibiting menthol cigarettes would be discriminatory. We reject this view.”
“The failure to prohibit the sale of menthol cigarettes and products would be discriminatory and counter the goal and function of the FDA to protect and promote public health for all, including the African-American community.”