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New Poll: Voters Strongly Support FDA Rule Prohibiting Menthol Cigarettes – Including 62% of Black Voters

Results Show Rule Does Not Harm President Biden’s Electoral Prospects
February 22, 2024

WASHINGTON, D.C. – As the White House considers the FDA’s final rule prohibiting the sale of menthol cigarettes, a new poll shows that voters support the rule by a substantial 29-point margin (58% to 29%) and Black voters support it by an even larger 37-point margin (62% to 25%). Contrary to claims made by the tobacco industry, implementation of the rule would not harm President Biden’s electoral prospects, with no change in Biden’s overall standing after voters were asked to assume that the Biden Administration ended the sale of menthol cigarettes, the poll shows. 

The poll was conducted by The Mellman Group, a leading political research firm, on behalf of the Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids.

“There is clear evidence that the menthol rule has no meaningful electoral impact,” the pollsters wrote in a summary memo.

To test the menthol rule’s potential electoral impact, the poll asked an initial presidential horse-race question between President Biden and former President Donald Trump, which gave Biden a two-point lead over Trump, 44% to 42%. Then, after introducing the proposed FDA menthol rule, the poll re-asked the horse-race question, prefacing the question with, “If the Biden Administration ended the sale of menthol flavored cigarettes in the United States…” Assuming the Biden Administration ended menthol cigarette sales produced no change in the margin, with Biden maintaining a two-point lead (45% to 43%).

“This new data proves what we already know to be true – Black voters want to see a menthol ban,” said Derrick Johnson, President and CEO of the NAACP. “Now, it’s time for the Biden Administration to put people over profits and swiftly enact a rule that will save countless Black lives. We’re done waiting. The NAACP will continue to do everything in its power to hold this Administration accountable to their promises to our community. Enough is enough. Our lives are at stake.”

“These poll results demonstrate that voters, especially Black voters, strongly support eliminating menthol cigarettes, and they debunk the tobacco industry myth that moving forward will be a political liability,” said Yolonda C. Richardson, President and CEO of the Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids. “The Biden Administration must issue a final rule without further delay. There is no other single action the Administration can take that would do more to advance health equity and help achieve the goals of the President’s Cancer Moonshot.”

The Biden Administration in December delayed issuing the final menthol rule shortly after meeting with tobacco industry representatives, with media reports indicating the delay was influenced by political concerns and a poll commissioned by tobacco giant Altria. The Altria poll, which was presented to the Administration but not publicly released, claimed to show that the menthol rule would turn off “Biden’s core voters,” who were defined as non-White voters and non-conservative White voters under 45 (“a very debatable definition of Biden’s base as it contains a significant number of Trump voters,” according to the Mellman polling memo).

The Mellman poll refutes these claims, finding that the menthol rule has no net electoral impact overall or among Biden’s base voters:

  • The President’s margin among Black voters remained unchanged at 58 points (74% Biden to 16% Trump) after respondents were asked to assume the Administration implemented the menthol rule.
  • Biden’s margin among 18-29-year-olds increased by two points to 56% Biden, 27% Trump, after assuming implementation of the menthol rule.

Other publicly released polls have also found strong support for eliminating menthol cigarettes. A Morning Consult/Politico poll released in May 2022 found that voters supported a proposed ban on menthol cigarettes by 58% to 24%, with 55% to 29% support among Black voters.

Under consideration for more than a decade, the menthol rule is supported by overwhelming scientific evidence showing 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 Black communities, causing devastating and disproportionate harm to the health of Black Americans. Research shows that prohibiting menthol cigarettes will save up to 654,000 lives within 40 years, including the lives of 255,000 Black Americans.

The FDA’s rule is supported by a wide range of organizations, scientists and elected officials. Supporters include members of the Congressional Black Caucus, the NAACP, other Black civil rights and health organizations, 100 Black Men of America Inc., the U.S. Conference of Mayors and over 300 faith leaders from across the country. 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.

Methodology: The survey had a base sample of 1,000 registered voters in the United States with an oversample to a total of 400 interviews among Black voters. Interviews were conducted December 9-14, 2023, using a registration-based sample, with live interviewers calling landlines and cell phones, as well as text-to-online interviews. The Black voter oversample was conducted online using a registration-based panel. The margin of error is +/-3.1% overall at a 95% level of confidence, and higher for subgroups.