WASHINGTON, DC — 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, MD.
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.
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