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Joint Statement: The FDA Continues to Delay Protecting Americans from Mentholated Cigarettes

The FDA Continues to Delay Protecting Americans from Mentholated Cigarettes
August 2023 was the deadline announced by FDA to propose a rule

WASHINGTON, DC – AUGUST 31, 2023 – The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) missed their self-imposed deadline to propose a life-saving rule to ban menthol as a characterizing flavor in combustible cigarettes. The public health community remains persistent in our appeal for this crucial rule that is projected to help 789,724 Americans (including 199,732 African Americans) quit smoking.

One person dies every 4.5 seconds from a tobacco-related disease. Every year, 39,000 African Americans die from tobacco-related diseases. Every day the FDA delays implementing proven-effective tobacco control policies, more Americans get sick and die from mentholated tobacco products.

The FDA’s initial proposal of the rule to regulate menthol only came after the Public Health Law Center filed a Citizen Petition in 2013 and the African American Tobacco Control Leadership Council, Action on Smoking and Health, the American Medical Association, and the National Medical Association successfully sued the FDA in 2020 with representation by Christopher K. Leung of Pollock Cohen LLP.

“The FDA is dragging their feet again. They should become part of the solution and not continue to be part of the problem; Black Lives Matter, Black Lives are at Stake!” said Dr. Phillip Gardiner, co-founder of the African American Tobacco Control Leadership Council. Other plaintiffs agree.

“We are disappointed that the FDA has yet to implement a rule banning menthol-flavored cigarettes. Further delays will only cause more harm by allowing tobacco companies to continue marketing menthol cigarettes to Black people and harming Black youth,” said American Medical Association President Jesse M. Ehrenfeld, M.D., M.P.H. “We implore the FDA to move swiftly to remove these harmful products from the market once and for all and keep them out of the hands of our nation’s youth—their health and well-being must be the first priority.”

“FDA’s delay in implementing the menthol ban is especially harmful to African Americans,” said National Medical Association President, Yolanda Lawson, MD. “Our patients suffer disproportionately from menthol flavored tobacco-related disease, disability and death.”

“ASH calls on the FDA to move expediently with the announcement of their rule to ban menthol as a characterizing flavor in cigarettes,” said Kelsey Romeo-Stuppy, Managing Attorney at Action on Smoking and Health. “Lives are hanging in the balance.”

We encourage the FDA to reignite their momentum toward protecting Americans from mentholated tobacco products and strengthening health equity.


Media Contacts:

AATCLC: Josh Brown, 312-813-5276
AMA: Kelly Jakubek, 312-464-4443
ASH: Megan Manning, 202-390-9513
NMA: Michael L. Peery, 312-217-2260

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


About The African American Tobacco Leadership Council (AATCLC)
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 flavored tobacco product. 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.

About Action on Smoking & Health (ASH)
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. https://ash.org.

About the American Medical Association (AMA)
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.

About the National Medical Association (NMA)
The NMA promotes the collective interests of physicians and patients of African descent. We conduct this mission by serving as the collective voice of physicians of African descent and is a leading voice for parity in medicine, elimination of health disparities and promotion of optimal health. https://www.nmanet.org

About Pollock Cohen LLP
Pollock Cohen LLP focuses on representing plaintiffs and protecting the public interest through impact litigation. The firm also handles a broad range of complex commercial litigation, maintains an active pro bono practice, and is a leader in whistleblower actions. https://www.pollockcohen.com.