Statement of Matthew L. Myers, President, Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids
FDA’s By issuing proposed rules today to prohibit menthol cigarettes and all flavored cigars, the FDA is taking historic and long-overdue action to protect our nation’s kids, advance health equity and save lives, especially among Black Americans and other populations that have been targeted by the tobacco industry and suffered enormous harm from the predatory marketing of these products.
For decades the tobacco industry has deliberately targeted Black communities with marketing for menthol cigarettes, with tragic consequences. The industry also uses these flavored products to lure kids into a deadly addiction. These rules will, once and for all, put an end to these predatory and deadly practices.
The Covid-19 pandemic has further exposed FDA’s the stark health disparities that exist in the United States. Tobacco use is a significant contributor to these disparities, and Black Americans die at higher rates from tobacco-related diseases such as cancer, heart disease and stroke.
The FDA’s proposal to ban menthol cigarettes and flavored cigars will have a profound and certain impact in reducing these health disparities.
The Biden Administration and the FDA deserve immense credit for standing up to the tobacco industry and moving forward with this bold, lifesaving policy, as they promised to do one year ago.
Once implemented, these rules will represent FDA’s some of the strongest actions our nation has ever taken to drive down the number of kids who start smoking and the number of Americans who are sickened and killed by tobacco.
Once again putting profits before lives, the tobacco industry is going all-out to fight these rules and push false claims that they will subject Black Americans to more law enforcement abuse. The FDA has made it crystal clear that these claims are without merit.
The FDA has stated that its rules will apply to manufacturers and retailers and that it “cannot and will not enforce against any individual consumer possession or use of menthol cigarettes or any tobacco product.” Racial bias in policing is a critical issue that must be addressed.
But the tobacco industry’s cynical fearmongering cannot hide the fact that the industry itself has caused so much harm to Black Americans through the targeted marketing of menthol cigarettes.
There is strong support FDA’s for prohibiting menthol cigarettes and flavored cigars from a wide range of organizations, scientists and elected officials – including from leading Black organizations and members of Congress. Supporters include the NAACP, other Black civil rights and public health organizations, members of the Congressional Black Caucus, and a broad coalition of 77 public health, medical, education and community organizations.
In a letter this month, , “We do not agree with the tobacco industry’s message and strategy presented by a few Black leaders: prohibiting menthol cigarettes would be discriminatory. We reject this view. The failure to prohibit the sale of menthol cigarettes and products would be discriminatory and counter the goal and function of the FDA to protect and promote public health for all, including the African-American community.”NAACP President and CEO Derrick Johnson powerfully stated
Because of the profound impact these rules can have on our nation’s health, the FDA has an obligation to finalize and implement them with utmost urgency. The faster these rules are 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.
Additional Information: Why Menthol Cigarettes and Flavored Cigars Must Be Eliminated