Washington, D.C., April 29, 2020 –
American Heart Association CEO Nancy Brown issued the following statement today following the Food and Drug Administration’s long-awaited announcement that it will begin the rulemaking process to remove menthol cigarettes and flavored cigars from the market.
The decision on menthol cigarettes is in response to a 2013 citizen petition filed by leading public health organizations, including the American Heart Association, urging the FDA to prohibit the use of menthol as a characterizing flavor in cigarettes.
“A prohibition on menthol cigarettes and flavored cigars would mark a historic turning point in the decades-long battle against tobacco use and the epidemic of tobacco-related disease.
“The FDA’s announcement today will begin a process intended to prohibit products that for decades have enticed tobacco users into a lifetime of nicotine addiction and condemned a disproportionate number of Black smokers to serious illness and premature death. We commend the FDA for moving, at long last, to prevent tobacco companies from targeting Black communities, youth and others with menthol cigarettes that make smoking easier to start and harder to quit.
“The science is clear: Menthol cigarettes have an adverse impact on public health and have no public health benefits as compared to non-menthol cigarettes. They increase the likelihood and degree of addiction among youth smokers, elevating the number of premature deaths from tobacco use. Their removal from the market would have enormous benefits for public health in this country.
“The tobacco industry’s sinister history of aiming price promotions and discounts for menthol cigarettes at Black communities has resulted in 85 percent of Black smokers choosing menthol. Black Americans suffer the greatest burden of tobacco-related death of any racial or ethnic group in the country, with nearly 45,000 dying annually of smoking-related illness.
“We are also very pleased that the FDA intends to remove flavored cigars from the market. Like menthol cigarettes, flavored cigars serve as a gateway to tobacco use. Cigars are the second-most used tobacco product among youth, and the majority of youth cigar smokers start with a flavored product. Flavored cigars also appeal both to adults who have never smoked and former smokers, and they encourage dual use of both cigars and cigarettes. Removing flavored cigars from the market would mark a major victory for public health.
“The American Heart Association is committed to helping our country achieve health equity so everyone has a fair chance to live a long and healthy life. The FDA’s actions today are a necessary step toward that goal. We call on the FDA to begin the rulemaking process immediately and hope the agency will build on this progress and eliminate flavors in all tobacco products.”