Advocacy Groups Want Biden To Enact Menthol Cigarette Ban

by State Brief

Last fall, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) sent final rules to the White House for a menthol cigarette and flavored cigar ban.

The FDA has considered the rule for more than a decade.

In the proposed rule change, the agency says the ban would “reduce the appeal of cigarettes, particularly to youth and young adults” and “improve the health and reduce the mortality risk of current menthol cigarette smokers by decreasing cigarette consumption and increasing the likelihood of cessation.”

So far, the White House has been unwilling to implement the ban, with officials privately expressing fear that the rule change could further hurt President Joe Biden’s standing among black voters during a pivotal election cycle.

Government data show that nearly 85 percent of black smokers use menthol cigarettes.

Now, a team of anti-smoking advocates have teamed up in an effort to pressure the Biden administration to enact the menthol cigarette ban.

“It is profoundly disappointing and harmful to public health that the Biden Administration has missed yet another deadline to issue a final FDA rule eliminating menthol cigarettes,” Yolonda C. Richardson, President and CEO of Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids, and Derrick Johnson, President and CEO of the NAACP, said in a joint statement about the failure to implement the rule change.

“There is absolutely no reason to further delay a policy that has been studied for more than 12 years, is supported by overwhelming scientific evidence, and will save hundreds of thousands of lives,” the statement continued.

“Make no mistake: Delays cost lives, especially Black lives. Delays allow the tobacco industry to continue its predatory targeting of Black and other communities with menthol cigarettes, resulting in 45,000 Black lives lost to smoking-related diseases every year,” the statement reads. “If Black lives truly matter, it’s time to get rid of menthol cigarettes, the only flavored cigarettes still on the market.”

Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids says that the tobacco industry has deliberately targeted the black community for more than 60 years with marketing for menthols, an effort the group in a report calls “horrifyingly successful.”

The organization says that in the 1950s, less than 10 percent of black smokers used menthol cigarettes.

Richardson and Johnson say in their statement that the cigarette ban has support from a wide array of concerned individuals and groups, including members of the Congressional Black Caucus, the NAACP, black civil rights and health organizations, the U.S. Conference of Mayors, and more than 300 faith leaders.

Research cited by Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids and the NAACP shows that banning menthol cigarettes will save up to 654,000 lives within four decades, including 255,000 black individuals.

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