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Statement from José Luis Castro, President and CEO, Vital Strategies, on Formal Complaint Against the FDA to Ban Menthol Tobacco Products:

“Vital Strategies stands in solidarity with the African American Tobacco Control Leadership Council (AATCLC) and Action on Smoking and Health (ASH) in their joint complaint against the  U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to characterize menthol as a flavor and to ban the sale of menthol tobacco products. 

In 2009, the FDA banned the sale of flavored cigarettes with the exception of menthol. This baseless decision enabled the tobacco industry to ramp up their already aggressive marketing tactics to target and hook Black Americans on their deadly products. Price promotions, retail, and point-of-sale advertising within Black neighborhoods is why 85% of Black American smokers use menthol cigarettes, compared to 29% of white smokers. 

Tobacco use is a health crisis. The targeting of Black Americans by the tobacco industry, compounded by health harms of menthol cigarettes, is a crisis of racial injustice. Each year, 45,000 Black Americans die from tobacco-related illnesses making it is the number one cause of death among Black Americans.

Marketing that encourages Black Americans to use menthol cigarettes, especially now, when they are suffering disproportionately from COVID-19 and smoking can increase the severity of the disease, is immoral behavior on the part of the tobacco industry.

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 urge the FDA to take action and address these inequities by banning menthol cigarettes and removing them from the marketplace immediately.”

Read more about the lawsuit filed here:

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” like comprehensive smoke-free laws and high tobacco taxes. Our evidence-based public education campaigns have been seen by more than 2 billion people around the world. We partner with American Cancer Society to produce The Tobacco Atlas, (sixth ed.) 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 Vital Strategies’ work in tobacco control, please visit:

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 or Twitter @VitalStrat.