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“Banning menthol is a big step forward for public health and for health equity”

Statement from José Luis Castro, President and CEO, Vital Strategies, on FDA’s Decision to Ban Menthol Tobacco Products

“We applaud the U.S. Food and Drug Administration’s announcement that they will work to ban menthol-flavored cigarettes and all flavored cigars and cigarillos in the next year.

Banning menthol is a big step forward for public health and for health equity. Tobacco is a leading cause of preventable death and disproportionately affects African Americans, who have for generations been targets of tobacco industry marketing of menthol cigarettes. Each year, 45,000 African Americans die from tobacco-related illnesses.

This long overdue decision will rectify the FDA’s 2009 action that banned the sale of all flavored cigarettes except for menthol—allowing the tobacco industry to ramp up their already aggressive marketing tactics to hook Black people on their deadly products. The prohibition of flavored cigars and cigarillos also addresses the tobacco industry’s efforts to circumvent the 2009 ban with aggressive production and marketing of novel flavored products.

We can expect tobacco interests to pursue lawsuits to weaken or delay this ban, or eliminate the restriction altogether. The tobacco industry has long used litigation to sabotage or delay public health measures seeking to reduce tobacco consumption. With 1,300 people dying daily from smoking in the U.S., we urge the FDA and the Biden administration not to wait but to act swiftly and eliminate menthol in tobacco products now. Too many lives are at stake.

At Vital Strategies, we envision a world where everyone is protected by a strong public health system, and that includes protection from the harms of tobacco and the tobacco industry. We stand resolutely with the African American Tobacco Control Leadership Council and Action on Smoking and Health and extend our deep appreciation for their work in the lead-up to today’s announcement.”

About Vital Strategies’ work in tobacco control:

Vital Strategies works globally and in more than 40 countries to support the adoption of proven policies to reduce tobacco use. Our global team of experts use policy, advocacy and strategic communication to help governments adopt lifesaving, public health “best buys” such as comprehensive smoke-free laws and high tobacco taxes. Our evidence-based media campaigns have been seen by more than 2 billion people around the world. We partner with American Cancer Society to produce The Tobacco Atlas, the most comprehensive report on the evolving global tobacco epidemic, and support production of WHO’s MPOWER reports. Vital Strategies is a main partner in the $1 billion Bloomberg Initiative to Reduce Tobacco Use and a partner in the global tobacco industry watchdog, Stopping Tobacco Organizations and Products (STOP).

For more information on Vital Strategies’ work in tobacco control, please visit: https://www.vitalstrategies.org/programs/tobacco-control

About Vital Strategies

Vital Strategies is a global health organization that believes every person should be protected by a strong public health system. We work with governments and civil society in more than 70 countries to design and implement evidence-based strategies that tackle their most pressing public health problems. Our goal is to see governments adopt promising interventions at scale as rapidly as possible. To find out more, please visit www.vitalstrategies.org or Twitter @VitalStrat.