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Over 300 Faith Leaders Tell President Biden They Support FDA Rules to Prohibit Menthol Cigarettes and Flavored Cigars

October 31, 2023

WASHINGTON, D.C. – In a letter to President Biden, 311 faith leaders from across the country expressed strong support for the FDA’s rules to prohibit the manufacture and sale of menthol cigarettes and flavored cigars. Most of the faith leaders serve Black communities. The letter calls FDA action to reduce tobacco use “a moral imperative,” emphasizing that tobacco use is the leading cause of preventable death in the United States and claims the lives of nearly half a million Americans every year.

The FDA on Oct. 13 sent its long-awaited rules to the White House Office of Management and Budget for final review. This is the last step before final rules are issued. The faith leaders’ letter urges President Biden to ensure that the rules are finalized and implemented without delay.

“The FDA’s proposals will substantially improve public health by reducing youth tobacco use, preventing tobacco-caused disease, and saving lives,” the letter states. “It is time to put an end to the tobacco industry’s targeted efforts to use flavored products to lure youth into a lifetime of deadly addiction. These rules can reduce health inequity and promote health justice, as menthol and other flavored tobacco products have a disproportionate impact on low-income and Black communities.”

As the letter notes, menthol cools and numbs the throat, masking the harshness of tobacco smoke and making it easier for young people to start smoking. Menthol cigarettes are also more addictive and harder to quit than non-menthol cigarettes.

“Black communities, which have been the target of menthol cigarette marketing for decades, have been especially harmed by menthol cigarettes. Removing these products from the market would reduce the number of youth who become addicted to tobacco, save hundreds of thousands of lives and advance health equity,” the letter states.

Researchers estimate that eliminating menthol cigarettes will save up to 654,000 lives over time, including the lives of 255,000 Black Americans.

The letter also supports the FDA’s rule to prohibit flavored cigars, pointing out that cigars are sold in hundreds of kid-friendly flavors like Cherry Dynamite and Tropic Fusion and are the second most popular tobacco product among youth.

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.

“As Black pastors we are saying to the tobacco industry that we have had enough of your industry exploiting our mothers, fathers and children,” said Rev. Kyev Tatum, Pastor of New Mount Rose Missionary Baptist Church, Fort Worth, TX. “The FDA needs to step in and address the pervasive marketing that robs our community of life.”

“The tobacco industry is targeting our kids,” said Chris Charles Scott of Southern Nevada Churches, Las Vegas, NV. “The FDA needs to do everything in its power to finalize a strong rule that protects the health of our communities. The time to act is now.”

“We have to protect our kids — bottom line. This rule will make sure that products that will impact the health of our kids are prohibited from reaching them,” said Dexter Sullivan of Dexter Sullivan Ministries, Farmington Hills, MI.

Learn more about the benefits of eliminating menthol cigarettes.