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Biden Administration Bows to Tobacco Industry with New Delay on Menthol Cigarette Ban

Biden Administration Bows to Tobacco Industry with New Delay on Menthol Cigarette Ban

After a 15-year delay, Co-Plaintiffs who sued FDA for inaction call for immediate protection from addictive and deadly mentholated tobacco products 

WASHINGTON, DC – APRIL 26, 2024 – Today, Health and Human Services Secretary Xavier Becerra announced yet another delay on the long-awaited FDA rule to ban mentholated tobacco products. The African American Tobacco Control Leadership Council (AATCLC), Action on Smoking and Health (ASH), the National Medical Association (NMA), and the American Medical Association (AMA), represented by Christopher Leung of Leung Law PLLC in their second lawsuit against the FDA, express deep concern with the additional delay of the life-saving rule to ban menthol in cigarettes.

Read the announced delay from HHS here>

“If the Biden Administration believed that Black lives matter, they would have ended the sale of menthol flavored cigarettes. Instead, they appear to be caving to Big Tobacco which has racistly targeted our community for decades,” said Carol McGruder, co-chair of the African American Tobacco Control Leadership Council. “Hundreds of thousands of Black Americans will die in the years to come because of today’s inaction. Shame on you, President Biden!”

“We are extremely disappointed at this decision to delay the ban on menthol cigarettes yet again. This ban has the potential to extend and save the lives of many people and the delay shows a tremendous disregard for public health. The marketing of menthol cigarettes continues to have a devastating impact on Black and Hispanic communities,” said Dr. Yolanda Lawson, 124th President of the National Medical Association, the largest and oldest national organization representing African American physicians and their patients in the United States.

“We are frustrated that tobacco industry arguments have interfered so heavily in the FDA rulemaking process so as to cause another delay of the menthol rule originally submitted to the Office of Management and Budget in February 2022,” said Kelsey Romeo-Stuppy, Managing Attorney at Action on Smoking and Health. “This shows the blatant disregard tobacco companies have for the long-term health of their customers. ASH remains committed to ensuring the FDA bans menthol and that Americans’ right to health is upheld.”

Menthol is an FDA approved additive; the crucial distinction is the result of adding menthol to tobacco products. Menthol makes smoking initiation easier because it acts as an anesthetic which causes the toxic chemicals and smoke in cigarettes to be inhaled deeper, in turn making menthol cigarettes more difficult to quit.

The FDA has held authority over tobacco product regulations since 2009 when they banned the sale of most flavored cigarettes but exempted menthol.

Despite mountains of evidence demonstrating the harm of menthol, the FDA did not act until April 2021 when a federal judge ordered the FDA to propose a rule banning menthol within one year, as a result of a Citizen Petition by the Public Health Law Center and the lawsuit filed in 2020 by the African American Tobacco Control Leadership Council, Action on Smoking and Health, the American Medical Association and the National Medical Association. When the FDA began the rulemaking process, the Plaintiffs voluntarily dismissed that lawsuit.

More than seven months after the FDA’s initial date for finalizing the menthol rule, AATCLC, ASH, and NMA filed a second lawsuit against the US FDA on April 2, 2024, with the American Medical Association (AMA) joining the lawsuit on April 26, 2024.

Today’s delayed rule demonstrates how essential the second lawsuit is against the FDA.

According to research released in April 2022, 789,724 Americans who smoke daily (including 199,732 African Americans) are projected to quit after a US menthol ban. Those are lives we can and must save.

“The Biden administration’s delay on removing menthol cigarettes from the marketplace is profoundly disappointing,” said Attorney Christopher Leung of Leung Law PLLC. “The FDA has been considering such a rule for over a decade, which is more than enough time to decide that youth, Black lives, and the public health are worth protecting. Any further delay is unreasonable.”

“We are disappointed with the action of the Biden Administration, which has caved into the scare tactics of the tobacco industry,” said Dr. Mark Mitchell, Chair, Council on Environmental Health and Climate Change of the National Medical Association. “We will continue to have Black children targeted for addiction and the health and lives of our patients ruined as long as the Administration delays a total ban on menthol.”


Media Contacts

AATCLC: Josh Brown, 312-813-5276
ASH: Megan Manning, 202-390-9513
NMA: Bernadette Davis, 469-290-4495
Attorney Christopher Leung, 212-498-8991

For inquiries specific to the Citizen Petition, please contact Joelle Lester from the Public Health Law Center.



The AATCLC was formed to educate the public about the effects of tobacco on the Black American and African Immigrant populations, the tobacco industry’s predatory marketing tactics, and the need to regulate menthol and all other flavored tobacco products. To more effectively reach and save Black lives, the AATCLC partners with community stakeholders and public serving agencies to inform and direct tobacco control policies, practices, and priorities. https://www.savingblacklives.org

Founded in 1967, Action on Smoking and Health (ASH) is America’s oldest anti-tobacco organization, dedicated to a world with ZERO tobacco deaths. Because tobacco is the leading cause of preventable death worldwide, ASH supports bold solutions proportionate to the magnitude of the problem. ash.org

The American Medical Association is the physicians’ powerful ally in patient care. As the only medical association that convenes 190+ state and specialty medical societies and other critical stakeholders, the AMA represents physicians with a unified voice to all key players in health care. The AMA leverages its strength by removing the obstacles that interfere with patient care, leading the charge to prevent chronic disease and confront public health crises, and, driving the future of medicine to tackle the biggest challenges in health care. For more information, visit https://www.ama-assn.org.

The NMA promotes the collective interests of physicians and patients of African descent. We carry out this mission by serving as the collective voice of physicians of African descent and a leading force for parity in medicine, elimination of health disparities and promotion of optimal healthhttps://www.nmanet.org

Leung Law PLLC is an impact litigation firm, focused on protecting civil rights, employees, and public health. www.impact-lit.com