Americans for Nonsmokers’ Rights (ANR) applauds the long overdue decision to eliminate the marketing and sale of menthol tobacco products. This is a critical, evidence-based tobacco control policy and an important step to counter the legacy of tobacco industry targeting of Black people for a lifetime of addiction. This move follows previous actions that banned other flavored cigarettes in 2009.
While the FDA begins to take action, localities should continue leading the way by adopting stronger local laws to prohibit the sale of ALL flavored tobacco products and vaping products, including menthol.
The reason for the years of delays and roadblocks for FDA to take action to regulate menthol is due to ongoing interference from the tobacco industry – not from a lack of science. We have long known the hazards of mentholated tobacco products and the potential benefits of a ban on menthol and other flavors.
In response to the FDA’s earlier delays and roadblocks, grassroots activism helped communities move forward with local laws to end the sale of flavored tobacco products in cities like San Francisco and Oakland. These local laws demonstrate that policies are effective and popular.
Despite aggressive industry interference over the years, two organizations in particular have maintained steadfast leadership over the last decade for building the movement for removing menthol from tobacco products: African American Tobacco Control Leadership Council (AATCLC) and Center for Black Heath and Equity (formally NAATPN). Key leaders including AATCLC founders Dr. Valerie Yerger, Dr. Philip Gardiner, and Carol McGruder as well as Delmonte Jefferson lead the work in educating communities and elected officials, advocating for local and state laws, testifying at FDA Tobacco Products Scientific Advisory Committee (TPSAC) meetings, and organizing partners in support of the movement. Their pioneering leadership laid the groundwork for localities to take action and generating more evidence that these policies will protect public health, particularly amongst those targeted most heavily by the tobacco industry to smoke menthol cigarettes.
Today, we celebrate with everyone working towards health equity and thank those who spent years paving the way for this important victory through their leadership, activism, education and community organizing.