Newswise — (April 29, 2021) NY, NY – In a historic move, the Biden Administration announced today its decision to ban menthol cigarettes and flavored cigars.  The decision comes after a protracted battle in the courts in which the tobacco industry’s aggressive marketing of menthol cigarettes was challenged by medical and public health organizations, including the American Thoracic Society.

Most recently, the ATS joined over 70 other medical and public health organizations in a letter to FDA leadership urging the agency to finally take concrete action to ban menthol and other flavored tobacco products.  The letter summarized the extensive evidence-base documenting the detrimental role menthol and other flavors play in tobacco initiation and addiction.

“We are pleased that the FDA is finally taking action to remove menthol-flavored cigarettes from the market, said ATS Tobacco Action Committee Chair Michelle Eakin, PhD. “When Congress first passed the Tobacco Control Act in 2009, it immediately banned flavored cigarettes from the U.S. market, but exempted menthol cigarettes. It is very exciting to finally see these harmful products removed.”

Furthermore, the science supporting the FDA’s action is compelling:  menthol makes cigarettes more addictive, menthol targets kids, and menthol makes it harder to quit. 

The last year has highlighted serious health inequities. Black Americans are much more likely to smoke menthol products. This is a result of the tobacco industry heavily marketing menthol cigarettes in largely Black communities.

“There is no question that menthol cigarettes are harmful and disproportionately target low-income individuals and Black Americans,” said ATS Tobacco Action Committee Vice Chair Hasmeena Kathuria, MD. “This is an incredibly important step to improve health equity and we are pleased that the FDA is finally taking action to remove menthol cigarettes from the market.”

By banning menthol cigarettes, the Biden Administration and the FDA are taking a significant step to reduce health disparities, especially among Black Americans, who have paid an enormous price in both their health and daily lives.

The ATS also strongly supports the FDA’s proposal to remove candy-flavored cigars.  Like menthol products, flavored cigars pose a unique danger to America’s youth. Flavored tobacco products have been a key strategy in Big Tobacco’s marketing arsenal to initiate new smokers at an early age.

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The ATS applauds FDA’s bold action to save lives by banning #menthol cigarettes AND flavored cigars! @mneakin @TobaccoFreeKids