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Mayor Emanuel Takes Bold Steps to Protect Chicago’s Kids from Menthol Cigarettes

Statement of Matthew L. Myers, President, Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids
July 25, 2013

WASHINGTON, DC – The Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids applauds Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel for his bold leadership in working to protect the city’s kids from the serious public health problems posed by menthol cigarettes.

Mayor Emanuel announced today that he has asked the Chicago Board of Health and the Chicago Department of Public Health (CDPH) to undertake a series of initiatives aimed at curtailing the use of menthol cigarettes by youth in Chicago. These agencies will host a series of town hall meetings to identify innovative, community-driven solutions to reduce menthol cigarette use among Chicago’s youth. In addition, CDPH will launch a tobacco prevention ad campaign in October that focuses on menthol cigarette use.

Mayor Emanuel’s initiative comes just days after a 153-page report by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration underscored the serious public health problems posed by menthol cigarettes. The report reached three key conclusions, finding that menthol cigarettes lead to 1) increased smoking initiation among youth and young adults; 2) greater addiction; and 3) decreased success in quitting smoking. “These findings, combined with the evidence indicating that menthol’s cooling and anesthetic properties can reduce the harshness of cigarette smoke and the evidence indicating that menthol cigarettes are marketed as a smoother alternative to nonmenthol cigarettes, make it likely that menthol cigarettes pose a public health risk above that seen with nonmenthol cigarettes,” the FDA’s report concluded.

As Mayor Emanuel wrote to city health leaders, among African-American youth ages 12-17 who smoke, 72 percent use menthol cigarettes and among LGBT youth who smoke, 71 percent smoke menthol. In March 2011, an FDA scientific advisory committee found that menthol cigarettes have been disproportionately marketed to youth and African Americans.

Tobacco use is the number one cause of preventable death in the United States, killing more than 400,000 Americans and costing the nation $96 billion in health care bills each year. Mayor Emanuel is providing the strong leadership we need to protect our children from tobacco addiction and win the fight against this deadly epidemic.