Washington, DC – April 26, 2023– Last year, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) released its proposed rules to eliminate menthol cigarettes and eliminate all flavors in cigars. Now, nearly one year later, the rules are still not final. This inaction has allowed Big Tobacco to continue targeting these products to the Black community, who consistently reports the highest prevalence of menthol cigarette use. Ahead of the one-year anniversary of FDA’s proposed rules, Lisa Lacasse, president of the American Cancer Society Cancer Action Network (ACS CAN), released the following statement:
“One year ago, FDA took a crucial step forward to address the harmful impacts of tobacco by releasing its proposed rules to eliminate menthol flavoring in cigarettes and all flavors in cigars. Finalizing these rules would help combat health disparities and could save as many as 654,000 lives, including the lives of more than 238,000 African Americans, over the next 40 years, according to modeling studies.
“While the proposed rules have been languishing, tobacco companies have taken advantage of the delay to continue their aggressive marketing tactics to initiate and addict new users of their deadly products.
“Decades of tobacco industry documents outline how the tobacco industry deliberately and aggressively aims to addict Black communities, as well as LGBTQ+ and limited income communities, with menthol cigarettes and flavored cigars through targeted advertising in magazines, events, and neighborhoods.
“As a result of these deliberate and predatory practices, menthol has been used at a higher rate by Black people in the United States, leading to disproportionately worse health outcomes, including the highest death rate and shortest survival rate for most cancers. According to research published in Tobacco Control, from 1980–2018, menthol cigarette smoking caused approximately 1.5 million life-years lost among African Americans, amounting to 40% of total excess deaths despite African Americans making up 12% of the U.S. population.
“FDA’s delay in finalizing these rules sends a message to Big Tobacco that they can continue to target Black Americans without repercussions.
“For more than a decade, ACS CAN has been urging FDA to use their statutory authority to prohibit menthol cigarettes and flavored cigars as part of our ongoing call for a total flavor prohibition in all tobacco products. Research shows that the addition of menthol and other flavors in tobacco products helps addict youth, putting the next generation at risk for a lifetime of addiction to tobacco. Menthol also masks the harsh flavor of tobacco, which — by industry design — makes it more difficult for people to quit smoking cigarettes or cigars. These products only serve to increase health disparities, increase use among and addiction of young people, and decrease quitting success. And we know that Big Tobacco companies cannot be trusted to regulate themselves.
“There is no scientific rationale for permitting any flavored tobacco product to remain on the market. FDA must not stall any longer. We urge FDA to swiftly finalize the rules and act immediately to eliminate harmful flavors in cigarettes and cigars.”