Joint Statement from the Plaintiffs on FDA’s Response in Favor of Banning Menthol
A Powerful Step Towards Saving Lives
WASHINGTON, DC – April 28, 2022 –Today, we celebrate with all Americans that the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) took a powerful step towards banning menthol and saving lives, especially Black lives. While a menthol ban does not go into immediate effect, our hope for a better, brighter, and healthier tomorrow starts today.
The plaintiffs in the lawsuit against the FDA, Action on Smoking and Health (ASH), African American Tobacco Control Leadership Council (AATCLC), the American Medical Association (AMA), and the National Medical Association (NMA), represented by the legal team at Pollock Cohen LLP are proud to have spurred on this action, which was initiated by the organizations behind the Citizen Petition.
“Today’s proposed ban on menthol cigarettes and flavored cigars will save Black lives. If the ban is finalized, it will prevent children from becoming the next generation of smokers and help adult smokers quit. For too long, menthol cigarettes have had an insidious grip on African American communities,” said Dr. Rachel Villanueva, President of the National Medical Association. “As Black physicians, we applaud the FDA for taking such an important measure to reverse the adverse health outcomes that disproportionately affect our communities and are directly related to the use of these tobacco products.”
“Menthol cigarettes violate the right to health of Americans, and especially Black Americans,” said Kelsey Romeo-Stuppy, Managing Attorney at Action on Smoking and Health. “With this proposed rule, the FDA is taking an important step to protect its citizens and is also getting in line with many other countries around the world who have already taken this essential measure.”
After more than a decade of inaction from the Federal government on menthol, the Biden Administration acted quickly and definitively to prioritize Black lives and to make progress towards ending the institutionalized racism African Americans face as a result of menthol cigarettes.
“We are pleased by the FDA’s action today to propose a ban on menthol-flavored cigarettes and finally remove these harmful products from the market. For far too long, tobacco companies have used menthol-flavored products to prey on young people, particularly Black youth. While long over-due, this rule, if finalized, will be a big step toward preventing a new generation from becoming addicted to tobacco products and suffering unnecessary harm, including death,” said AMA President Gerald E. Harmon, M.D. “We will continue to support policies and initiatives that will keep tobacco products out of the hands of our nation’s youth.”
While we are certain that tobacco companies will attempt to continue to insert themselves into the rulemaking process and attempt to muddy the facts around the harms of menthol, we are equally confident that the public health community and research community will stand strong, and we encourage those communities to submit comments to the rule.
Unfortunately, that has already begun, with groups asking the FDA to reconsider because a menthol ban may increase police interactions with Black Americans. As advocates, we have been conscious of this concern from the beginning. We do not, and would not, support an action that criminalized tobacco. ASH, AATCLC, and several of the co- petitioners, signed a Joint statement Addressing Systemic Racism in the Enforcement of Commercial Tobacco Control that emphasizes this point.
With the FDA’s draft rule today, we are one step closer toward preventing the deaths of 39,000 African Americans every year from tobacco-related diseases. Let’s remain firm in our mission and realize that goal.
“We are working towards a day where no Black people in America die from preventable deaths due to tobacco,” explained AATCLC Co-Chair Carol McGruder. “This critical move in the rule-making process by the FDA helps make that day a reality.”
Register here for our joint webinar on Tuesday, May 3, 2022 at noon Eastern. Hear the Plaintiffs Perspectives on the proposed FDA rule on menthol.
Plaintiff direct media contacts are:
AATCLC: Josh Brown, 312-813-5276
AMA: Kelly Jakubek, 312-464-4443
ASH: Megan Arendt, 202-390-9513
NMA: Courtney Holsworth, 989-572-8162
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 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 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.