Krishnamoorthi, Rush, and Durbin Press Biden Administration to Ban Menthol-Flavored Cigarettes

Apr 21, 2021
Press Release
'Protect both public health and racial equity by banning menthol-flavored cigarettes'

Washington, D.C. (Apr. 21, 2021)—Today, Rep. Raja Krishnamoorthi, Chairman of the Subcommittee on Economic and Consumer Policy, Rep. Bobby L. Rush, and Senator Dick Durbin sent a letter to the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) calling for a ban of menthol-flavored cigarettes to protect both public health and racial equity.

 

Smoking-related illnesses rank as the number-one cause of death among African Americans.  Big Tobacco companies have for decades bombarded African Americans with tobacco ads featuring mentholated cigarettes.  According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), those ads have been “targeted heavily towards African Americans through culturally tailored advertising images and messages.”  The end result:  seven in ten African American youths aged 12–17 who smoke use menthol cigarettes. 

 

“These failures to protect children, particularly African American children, from a path to addiction are inexcusable.  It is time to remedy the broken promises of the last administration by banning menthol cigarettes today.  And, indeed, it is your duty.  As one of his first acts in office, President Biden instructed you, along with all agencies, to consider racial equity in your policymaking,” wrote the Members.

 

Menthol-flavored cigarettes are a popular on-ramp into smoking for children.  Menthol-flavored cigarettes are more addictive and more dangerous than non-menthols.  According to the CDC, “Menthol in cigarettes is thought to make harmful chemicals more easily absorbed in the body, likely because menthol makes it easier to inhale cigarette smoke.”

 

FDA has recognized for years that “menthol products disproportionately and adversely affect underserved communities” and “exacerbate troubling disparities in health related to race and socioeconomic status.  Additionally, FDA has acknowledged that menthol-flavored cigarettes are harmful to public health and are particularly harmful to African Americans.

 

A pending lawsuit by the African American Tobacco Leadership Council led to FDA’s promise to a federal court that it will decide whether or not it will ban menthol-flavored cigarettes by April 29, 2021.

 

“FDA’s decision on April 29 is a major early test of the Biden FDA’s commitment to racial equity in public health.  And the test has a clear right answer.  If you end menthol-flavored cigarette sales, you pass.  If you allow menthol-flavored cigarette sales to continue, you fail,” added the Members.

 

Click here to read today’s letter.

 

Background:

 

The Trump Administration made bold promises to address the menthol problem twice and then scrapped those plans without public explanation:

 

  • On November 15, 2018, then-Commissioner Scott Gottlieb announced that FDA would introduce a rule to ban menthol cigarettes. 

 

  • On September 11, 2019, former President Trump, then-Secretary Alex Azar, and then-Acting Commissioner Norman Sharpless announced that they would clear the market of all flavored e-cigarettes, including those flavored with mint and menthol, and that they would do so within “a couple of weeks.”

 

  • After a four-month delay, replete with industry lobbying and White House interference, the Trump Administration bowed to industry pressure and abandoned its promise to ban menthol e-cigarettes.

 

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117th Congress