Tobacco industry’s targeting of African Americans must end
On June 17, the African American Tobacco Control Leadership Council (AATCLC) and Action on Smoking and Health (ASH) filed a lawsuit in the U.S. District Court in the Southern District of California claiming that the Food and Drug Administration’s (FDA) failure to ban menthol cigarettes violates federal law, and that continued delay was projected to result in an estimated 4,700 premature deaths in the African American community.
The case argues that FDA is in violation of the Administrative Procedure Act for unreasonably delaying action required by the Tobacco Control Act, passed in 2009, and despite compiling extensive scientific data showing that menthol poses a public health risk beyond that of regular cigarettes.
Below is a statement from Lisa Lacasse, ACS CAN president.
“The American Cancer Society Cancer Action Network (ACS CAN) has been urging FDA to prohibit menthol, including in cigarettes, in our call for a total flavor prohibition in all tobacco products for years. The agency’s inaction is a curious deference to the tobacco industry on a product, which if prohibited, would help reduce tobacco initiation among youth and stimulate cessation among adult users, saving lives from disease and death caused by menthol cigarettes. ACS CAN strongly supports The African American Tobacco Control Leadership Council (AATCLC) and Action on Smoking and Health’s (ASH) decision to file suit against FDA on this issue.
“Big Tobacco has used menthol cigarettes to deliberately and aggressively target African Americans, youth, LGBTQ communities and low-income communities for decades. And it has worked. African Americans consistently report the highest prevalence of menthol cigarette use. It is well documented that menthol in cigarettes increases smoking initiation, decreases successful quitting and leads to greater addiction. Failing to address menthol flavoring in tobacco is failing to address a serious health inequity in our country.
“Smoking is the number one cause of preventable death and the leading contributor to lung cancer. Removing this weapon from Big Tobacco’s arsenal would help address health disparities in tobacco-related disease and save lives.
“In the vacuum created by FDA, Congress has worked to take its own action. ACS CAN is encouraged by the House passage of The Reversing the Youth Tobacco Epidemic Act in February to prohibit menthol cigarettes and all other flavored tobacco products. Furthermore, some cities and states across the country have made progress in ending Big Tobacco’s targeting of children by ending the sale of all flavored tobacco, including menthol cigarettes which target African Americans. However, FDA has the power and obligation to make this change swiftly and effectively throughout our country. We stand with AATCLC and ASH in their call for the agency to stop the tobacco industry’s shameless targeting of African Americans with menthol products, including cigarettes.”