Make Your Voice Heard As FDA Considers a Ban on Menthol Cigarettes
What do you call a substance that makes a deadly product taste more pleasant, helps attract and hook new users and is largely marketed at African-Americans and other people of color, contributing to their reduced life expectancy? The answer is menthol.
That's how we began a blog that appears today in Forbes.com, written with Phillip Gardiner, a public health researcher at the University of California, longtime tobacco control activist and the co-chair of the African American Tobacco Control Leadership Council. A version of this commentary will also appear as an Op-Ed in the Oakland Tribune on Thursday.
Menthols are the cigarettes used by 83 percent of African American smokers, 51 percent of Asian smokers and 47 percent of Latino smokers. Just 24 percent of white smokers use menthols. Young people often make menthols their first cigarette.
Public health advocates have been pushing for years to ban menthol in cigarettes. In 2009, Congress banned the addition of flavorings to cigarettes—with the sole exception of menthol. The Food and Drug Administration has been considering a menthol ban since then, but hasn’t taken any action. A scientific advisory committee to the FDA urged in 2011 that menthol be banned. Yet the tobacco industry keeps pushing for delays and the FDA keeps granting them.
The agency is accepting public comments on the proposal to ban menthol until Nov. 22 here. We urge you to submit comments to the agency to counter the continuing efforts of the tobacco industry to block or delay a menthol ban. Here’s an excerpt of comments we submitted:
Menthol cigarettes are unequal-opportunity killers that disproportionately hook young people, African-Americans and other people of color, harming their health and reducing their life expectancy. We urge the FDA to ban menthol in cigarettes and help reduce the vast, avoidable differences in health that separate Americans by race and wealth.
If you do submit comments, please send copies to us and we’ll share them.