The FDA Agrees to Ban Menthol, To Protect African Americans
The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) responds to a lawsuit filed by ASH, AATCLC, AMA, and NMA on Saving Black Lives
WASHINGTON, DC – April 29, 2021 – Today, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) announced that it will promulgate a rule banning menthol cigarettes, finally responding to a Citizen Petition submitted to the agency in 2013 by nineteen public health organizations. The FDA’s overdue response to the petition was prompted by a lawsuit filed by the African American Tobacco Control Leadership Council (AATCLC), Action on Smoking and Health (ASH), the American Medical Association (AMA), and the National Medical Association (NMA). The plaintiffs are represented by Pollock Cohen LLP. The FDA has determined that they will ban the sale of menthol cigarettes.
“The African American Tobacco Control Leadership Council is encouraged by the FDA finally agreeing to begin the rulemaking process to get menthol cigarettes off the marketplace. This is a major step forward in Saving Black Lives; however, this is not the end of this fight, only the next stage. The AATCLC strongly encourages that tobacco control activists throughout the country continue to fight to ban the sale of menthol tobacco products at the local, state and federal level. We know that this rule making process could take years and we know that the tobacco industry will continue to do everything in their power to derail any attempt to remove their deadly products from the market,” said Dr. Phillip Gardiner, Co-Chair of the African American Tobacco Control Leadership Council.
“Today’s action by the FDA to ban menthol-flavored cigarettes, while long-overdue, is a major step toward preventing a new generation from becoming tobacco users and saving lives. For too long, tobacco companies have been enabled to promote menthol cigarettes to the Black community, preying particularly on Black youth. We urge the FDA to move swiftly to implement the ban and remove these harmful products from the market without further delay. We will continue to support policies and initiatives that keep tobacco products out of the hands of our nation’s youth to protect their health and well-being,” said AMA President Susan R. Bailey, M.D.
The complaint, initially filed on June 17, 2020, asserts that, contrary to the duties imposed by the Family Smoking Prevention and Tobacco Control Act (“Tobacco Control Act”), the FDA has failed to act on menthol cigarettes. On November 12, 2020, the case passed its first hurdle when the court denied the FDA’s motion to dismiss.
Today, we applaud the FDA for their decision to protect African Americans from deadly tobacco industry tactics like the predatory marketing and use of menthol. We encourage expediency in removing menthol cigarettes from the market.
Tobacco is the leading cause of preventable death worldwide, smoking-related illnesses are the leading causes of death in the African American community, and 85 percent of African Americans who smoke use menthol cigarettes.
In fact, a report by a committee of the FDA concluded that if menthol cigarettes had been removed from the marketplace in 2010, then (a) by 2020, roughly 17,000 premature deaths would have been avoided and about 2.3 million people would not have started smoking. It is critical to ban menthol now.
“A global precedent of banning menthol to save lives has already been set by Canada, Brazil, Ethiopia, and the European Union, among others,” said Kelsey Romeo-Stuppy, Managing Attorney, Action on Smoking and Health (ASH). “Americans, particularly Black Americans, deserve the same level of protection from tobacco as other people around the world, and today, we are one step closer to that.”
“We are encouraged by the FDA’s response today and believe that this is a step in the right direction of saving lives, especially those within the Black community,” said Christopher Leung of Pollock Cohen LLP. “Litigation can be an impactful means of holding our government accountable and advancing important public policy changes. We are happy that today is a strong example of that potential realized. We look forward to reading FDA’s response more thoroughly as we press forward with our case. The fight is not over until real change is made and FDA bans menthol flavoring from cigarettes.”
AATCLC, ASH, AMA, and Pollock Cohen LLP are thrilled that the FDA has finally decided to take long delayed action in order to protect the health and lives of African Americans. This victory marks another battle won in the war against the tobacco epidemic.
The plaintiffs and partners host a live discussion of the results Friday, April 30th.
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 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.
African American youth who smoke menthol cigarettes have greater nicotine dependence and a greater desire to smoke than non-menthol users, and therefore have a harder time quitting (source).
67% of overall health disparities in mortality in African American men are related to their high smoking prevalence (source).
Joint report submitted to the United Nations Committee on the Elimination of all forms of Racial Discrimination (CERD) asking them to implore the U.S. government to take action. The report includes useful facts and statistics on menthol use in the U.S.