House Appropriations Bill Is Special… | Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids
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House Appropriations Bill Is Special Interest Gift to Big Tobacco at Great Cost to Kids and Lives

Statement of Matthew L. Myers, President, Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids
May 17, 2023

WASHINGTON, D.C. – The House appropriations bill to fund the Department of Agriculture, FDA and other agencies, which was released today, includes extremely harmful provisions that would block the FDA from moving forward with proposals to prohibit menthol cigarettes and flavored cigars and to limit nicotine in cigarettes to non-addictive or minimally addictive levels.

This bill is a special interest gift to the tobacco industry that would result in more kids addicted to tobacco and more lives lost, especially Black lives. These shameful provisions give the tobacco industry everything it wants from Congress in exchange for its campaign contributions. Members of Congress face a clear choice: Will they act to protect America’s kids and save lives or will they side with the tobacco industry and protect its profits from the sale of deadly and addictive products?

It is reprehensible that these provisions have been included in the appropriations bill given the enormous, unambiguous benefits of the FDA’s proposals to ban menthol cigarettes and flavored cigars and to limit nicotine levels in cigarettes.

The evidence is clear that prohibiting menthol cigarettes will greatly benefit our nation’s health, especially among Black Americans who have been targeted by the tobacco industry for decades with predatory marketing for these products. Researchers estimate that prohibiting menthol cigarettes would save up to 654,000 lives in the coming decades, including the lives of 255,000 Black Americans. Black Americans represent over one-third of the lives that would be saved. A recent analysis by researchers at the Council on Foreign Relations also found that a ban on menthol cigarettes would eliminate the disparity in lung cancer death rates between Black Americans and other U.S. racial and ethnic groups within 5 years – 25 years sooner than it would otherwise happen.

The evidence is clear that menthol makes it easier for kids to start smoking by cooling and numbing the throat and masking the harshness of smoking. Menthol cigarettes are also more addictive and harder to quit. Yet the tobacco industry has targeted menthol, its most addictive flavor, at Black communities, resulting in a devastating and disproportionate impact on the health of Black Americans. Flavored cigars have also been targeted at the Black community and kids and are smoked at higher rates by Black high school students. Eliminating these products is a critical step to protect kids, advance health equity and save lives.

Limiting nicotine in cigarettes (and other smoked tobacco products) would also have huge health benefits. The FDA has estimated that such a policy would prevent over 33 million youth and young adults from becoming regular smokers this century, prompt 5 million smokers to quit within one year (rising to 13 million within 5 years) and save more than 8 million lives by the end of this century.

Tobacco use is still the number one cause of preventable death in the United States, killing nearly half a million Americans and costing the nation over $241 billion in health care bills each year. The FDA’s proposals would go a long way toward ending tobacco’s devastating toll. It is unconscionable that any member of Congress would turn their back on these enormous benefits and protect the interests of Big Tobacco.