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CEO Perspective

Menthol Tobacco Products Disproportionately Harm Black Communities

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.