The FDA itself “has consistently found that the scientific evidence establishes that menthol as a characterizing flavor in cigarettes is harmful to public health.”
“The scientific evidence strongly establishes that the availability of menthol cigarettes both increases the level of smoking initiation and decreases the level of smoking cessation,” wrote the coalition in a November 10 letter to FDA. “There is a growing body of evidence that the elimination of menthol cigarettes would lead a substantial number of current menthol smokers to quit smoking rather than switch to non-menthol cigarettes in response to a prohibition on menthol cigarettes.”
A release by the ADA explained that the letter made the following points:
- “It increases the number of children who experiment with cigarettes and the number who become regular smokers.
- Menthol-flavored cigarettes increase addiction and reduce cessation, disproportionately harm the health of African Americans, and worsen existing health disparities.
- It will potentially cause “significant numbers” of current menthol smokers to quit.”
Most importantly, noted the coalition, the 2011 FDA Tobacco Products Scientific Advisory Committee Report had recommended pulling menthol cigarettes from the market, and the FDA itself “has consistently found that the scientific evidence establishes that menthol as a characterizing flavor in cigarettes is harmful to public health.”
In fact, back in 2018, the former FDA Commissioner Scott Gottlieb himself had referred to the availability of menthol flavours in tobacco products as a major problem. “Menthol is a significant problem,” he said Gottlieb at the time. “I don’t think the tobacco industry should be marketing products, if not directed at kids, make it exceptionally easy to get kids started on combustible cigarettes.”
The FDA has already been sued over lack of menthol ban
Meanwhile last June, Action on Smoking & Health (ASH) and the African American Tobacco Control Leadership Council, joined forces in suing the FDA for failing to regulate menthol cigarettes, despite being urged by Congress to do so. On September 3rd, the American Medical Association (AMA) joined the suit as a co-plaintiff. “The world is moving in this direction, against menthol” said Kelsey Romeo-Stuppy, managing attorney at ASH.
AMA President Dr. Susan R. Bailey, added that it is time Big Tobacco is stopped from preying on the African American community. “For generations, tobacco companies have promoted menthol cigarettes to the African American community, preying especially on African American youth,” she said. “The results are clear and grim; although African Americans usually smoke fewer cigarettes and start smoking at an older age, they are more likely than Whites to die from smoking-related diseases like heart disease and stroke.”