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Court to hear arguments in case to compel FDA to ban menthol cigarettes

Decades long targeting of African Americans has led to tobacco addiction and deadly health consequences.

The U.S. District Court in the Southern District of California will hear oral arguments Thursday in a lawsuit brought by the African American Tobacco Control Leadership Council (AATCLC), Action on Smoking and Health (ASH), and the American Medical Association (AMA), claiming that the Food and Drug Administration’s (FDA) failure to ban menthol cigarettes violates federal law and that continued delay is projected to result in an estimated 4,700 premature deaths in the African American community.

The plaintiffs' case argues that FDA is in violation of the Administrative Procedure Act for unreasonably delaying action required by the Family Smoking Prevention and Tobacco Control Act of 2009 after the agency compiled extensive scientific data showing that menthol poses a public health risk beyond that of regular cigarettes. 

The American Cancer Society Cancer Action Network (ACS CAN) filed an amicus brief in the case, supporting public health groups' lawsuit against FDA in order to force FDA to ban menthol flavor in combustible cigarettes following years of delay.

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 puts tobacco industry profits over public health by leaving a product on the market that entices youth to start and encourages adults to continue using menthol tobacco products that can result in disease and death. ACS CAN strongly supports AATCLC, ASH and AMA in their lawsuit 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. This targeting has resulted in African Americans consistently reporting 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. Taking action to prohibit menthol would help address health disparities in tobacco-related disease and save lives. 

“In the vacuum created by FDA, 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 to promote public health through effective tobacco control nationwide; simply saying they will do so without demonstrative action or deadlines is not the same as actually prohibiting these cigarettes. We stand with AATCLC, ASH and AMA in their call for the agency to stop the tobacco industry’s shameless targeting of African Americans with menthol products, including cigarettes.”


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