In Key Step Forward, FDA Sends Rules… | Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids
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In Key Step Forward, FDA Sends Rules to Eliminate Menthol Cigarettes and Flavored Cigars to White House for Final Review

Statement of Yolonda C. Richardson, President and CEO, Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids
October 16, 2023

WASHINGTON, D.C. – The Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids welcomes the news that the FDA today sent its rules to end the sale of menthol cigarettes and flavored cigars to the White House Office of Management and Budget for final review. This is the last regulatory step before issuing final rules. Because of the profound, lifesaving benefit to our nation’s health, the White House and OMB should expedite their review and issue final regulations by the end of the year.

These rules represent truly historic action to drive down tobacco use – the number one cause of preventable death in the United States. Once implemented, they will protect kids from tobacco addiction, advance health equity and save hundreds of thousands of lives, especially Black lives.

The scientific evidence to support these rules is overwhelming. The evidence shows that menthol cigarettes are more addictive, easier for kids to start smoking and harder for smokers to quit. For decades, the tobacco industry has marketed these products to kids, Black Americans and other populations. Menthol cigarettes, in particular, have had a devastating and disproportionate impact on the health of Black Americans.

Prohibiting menthol cigarettes will have enormous benefits for our nation’s health, especially among Black Americans:

  • Prohibiting menthol cigarettes will save hundreds of thousands of lives. Researchers estimate that prohibiting menthol cigarettes would save up to 654,000 lives within 40 years, including the lives of 255,000 Black Americans. Black Americans represent over one-third of the lives that would be saved. 
  • Prohibiting menthol cigarettes will reduce and even eliminate health disparities. Black Americans currently die at higher rates from tobacco-related diseases like lung cancer, heart disease and stroke. A recent analysis by researchers at the Council on Foreign Relations 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.

For these and other reasons, the FDA’s plan is supported by a wide range of organizations, scientists and elected officials – including members of the Congressional Black Caucus, the NAACP, other Black civil rights and public health organizations, 100 Black Men of America Inc., and the U.S. Conference of Mayors. A coalition of more than 100 public health, social justice, medical, parent, community and other organizations voiced strong support in comments submitted to the FDA.

Eliminating flavored cigars will also protect kids and reduce health disparities. Cheap, flavored cigars are sold in hundreds of kid-friendly flavors, like “berry fusion,” “iced donut” and “cherry dynamite.” These flavored products have flooded the market in recent years and fueled the popularity of cigars with kids. The 2022 National Youth Tobacco Survey shows that cigars are the second most popular tobacco product (after e-cigarettes) among all high school students and are especially popular among Black high school students.

The Biden Administration and the FDA deserve immense credit for standing up to the tobacco industry and proposing this bold, lifesaving policy. President Biden and his Administration have rightly recognized that these rules are a critical component of the White House Cancer Moonshot initiative, stating that smoking is “the biggest single driver of cancer deaths in this country.” The faster these rules are finalized and implemented, the faster we can stop the tobacco industry’s lethal targeting of Black and other communities, the more kids we will prevent from smoking, and the more lives we will save.

Learn more about the benefits of eliminating menthol cigarettes.