How banning menthol cigarettes could save 6,000 black lives a year
WADA supports the Food and Drug Administration’s (FDA) proposal to ban menthol-flavored cigarettes, a move that will save hundreds of thousands of lives over the next few decades while reducing health inequities. The AMA Joins a 2020 Lawsuit (PDF) to Compel the FDA to Fulfill its Mandate to Take Action on the Agency’s Own Findings That Banning the Sale of Menthol Flavored Cigarettes Would Be Beneficial for public health.
WADA President Gerald E. Harmon, MD, said the organization is thrilled the FDA is getting ready to “finally take these harmful products off the market.”
“For too long, tobacco companies have used menthol-flavored products to prey on young people, especially young black people,” he said, describing the rule as “long overdue.”
If the rule is finalized, it will be “a big step forward in preventing a new generation from becoming addicted to tobacco products and suffering unnecessary harm, including death,” added Carolina family physician Dr Harmon. from South. “We will continue to support policies and initiatives that will keep tobacco products out of reach for our nation’s youth and work to combat this leading cause of preventable disease and death.
Tobacco is the leading cause of preventable death worldwide. Smoking-related diseases are the leading cause of death among blacks, and 85% of African Americans who smoke use menthol cigarettes.
The proposed rule represents an “important step in advancing health equity by significantly reducing tobacco-related health disparities,” Health and Human Services Secretary Xavier Becerra said.
If the sale of menthol flavored cigarettes is effectively banned, the FDA predicts a 15.1% drop in smoking within 40 years, which would save between 324,000 and 654,000 lives. The agency also projects that the ban would end between 92,000 and 238,000 smoking-related deaths among African Americans, or up to 6,000 black lives saved each year.
The 167-page proposed rule notes that tobacco company marketing targeted black communities and historically underfunded black teens with discount offers, free samples, advertising in nightclubs and bars, and packs with fewer cigarettes to offer a lower price and “encourage trials and initiation.”
After the Family Smoking Prevention and Control Act was enacted in 2009, all cigarette flavors except menthol and tobacco were banned, prompting the AMA to adopt a policy opposing the exemption of menthol from the tobacco flavor ban.
The law, however, authorized the FDA to ban menthol flavors if such a ban was “appropriate for public health.”
When the FDA did not act on this clearance, two organizations – the African American Tobacco Control Leadership Council and Action on Smoking and Health – sued the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) and the FDA for the compel action.
Shortly thereafter, the National Medical Association and the AMA joined the lawsuit as additional plaintiffs.
The lawsuit cited congressional research (PDF) highlighting “the historic targeting of African Americans for the use of menthol cigarettes by tobacco companies.” He also cited projections from a 2011 report by an FDA advisory committee (PDF) estimating that a ban on menthol cigarettes could have ended by 2020:
- About 17,000 premature deaths and 4,700 among blacks.
- About 2.3 million people start smoking, including about 461,000 African Americans.
The government sought to have the case dismissed, but its request was denied. The case has been put on hold pending promulgation of the FDA rule. The deadline for comments on the rule is July 5.
The FDA has also proposed another rule to ban all flavors of cigars except tobacco and cites a 2020 survey that found 58.3% of young cigar smokers – about 550,000 people – said they had smoked. a flavored cigar, little cigar or cigarillo within the last month.
Additionally, the ruler cites a 2019 study showing that every day more young adults — 3,163 — were trying a cigar for the first time, a figure nearly 20% higher than the number of cigarette tries.
The AMA has long-standing policies in favor of banning menthol in combustible tobacco products and calls on the FDA to ban the use of flavoring agents in all tobacco products. This opposition to flavoring agents extends to e-cigarettes and vaping, which the AMA has declared a public health epidemic.