FDA Takes Long-Overdue Step to Protect Kids and Advance Racial and Health Equity

Decision will help combat health inequities that have been driven by decades of predatory targeting practices

MINNEAPOLIS, April 28, 2022 /PRNewswire/ — Today leaders from the Menthol Coalition and Minnesotans for a Smoke-Free Generation applaud the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) for taking the long-overdue step to take menthol cigarettes and flavored cigars off the market. Ending menthol flavoring in cigarettes and all flavors in cigars will also help combat the health disparities intentionally driven by Big Tobacco’s predatory practices to addict Black, LGBTQ and low-income communities for decades. The coalitions also urge swift FDA action to remove all remaining commercial flavored tobacco products from the marketplace, including all flavored e-cigarettes and hookah.

“Racism is a public health crisis and removing menthol cigarettes and flavored cigars from the market is one step to address this crisis,” said Gene Nichols, a community advocate. “For decades, Big Tobacco has marketed menthol cigarettes specifically to African American people, advertising in Black publications and neighborhoods, sponsoring concerts, and even driving around Black neighborhoods handing out free samples of menthol cigarettes. It’s no wonder African Americans have the highest death rate and shortest survival rate from most cancers and are 53% more likely to die from heart disease.”

Menthol and flavored commercial tobacco products have also been used to target Latinx, LGBTQ and American Indian communities, as well as youth. The 2020 Minnesota Youth Tobacco Survey found that 33 percent of kids who currently smoke reported smoking a menthol cigarette in the past 30 days, versus 27.5 percent of Minnesota adult smokers.  Eliminating menthol in cigarettes and all flavors in cigars will reduce youth initiation, helping ensure kids never start smoking and reducing health inequities. 

Minnesotans for a Smoke-Free Generation is a coalition of more than 60 organizations that share a common goal of reducing youth smoking and ending tobacco’s harm for good. The coalition supports ending the sale of menthol and all flavored tobacco products to ease health disparities and prevent youth tobacco use.

Since the FDA rule will likely face lawsuits and delays from the tobacco industry, Minnesotans for a Smoke-Free Generation and the Menthol Coalition are continuing to urge state and local leaders to pass policies now to end the sale of menthol and all commercial flavored tobacco products, including e-cigarettes, hookah and chew.

The Minnesota House Select Committee on Racial Justice issued extensive policy recommendations to address racial disparities. Among them was the recommendation that Minnesota remove menthol and all flavored tobacco products from the marketplace and invest in tobacco prevention and treatment. Senator Bobby Joe Champion and Representative Cedrick Frazier have championed a statewide bill to end all flavored tobacco sales (HF 904/SF1271). With just weeks left in the 2022 legislative session, Minnesota legislators still have time to reinforce the FDA ruling by acting on this legislation, as well as opportunities to remove barriers to vital commercial tobacco cessation treatment for Minnesotans on Medicaid and MinnesotaCare.

This FDA action also highlights the need to promote free tobacco cessation treatment resources on the federal, state and local levels, which will be essential for people who smoke menthol cigarettes and will seek support to quit when these rules are implemented. All Minnesota residents can access free quitting help through 1-800-QUIT-NOW and QuitPartnerMN.com.

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About Minnesotans for a Smoke-Free Generation 

Minnesotans for a Smoke-Free Generation is a coalition of more than 60 organizations that share a common goal of advancing justice by striving toward a future where every person is free from commercial tobacco’s harms and can reach their full health potential.

Partners include: A Breath of Hope Lung Foundation, Allina Health, American Cancer Society Cancer Action Network, American Heart Association, American Lung Association in Minnesota, Association for Nonsmokers – Minnesota, Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Minnesota, Cancer Legal Care, CentraCare, Children’s Minnesota, Comunidades Latinas Unidas En Servicio – CLUES, Dodge County Public Health, Essentia Health, Eugene Nichols, Faribault Martin & Watonwan Co SHIP, Gillette Children’s Specialty Healthcare, HealthPartners, Hennepin County Public Health, Hennepin Healthcare, Horizon Public Health, Indigenous Peoples Task Force, Lincoln Park Children and Families Collaborative, Local Public Health Association of Minnesota, Masonic Cancer Center, University of Minnesota, Mayo Clinic, Medica, Meeker McLeod Sibley Community Health Services, MHA – Minnesota Hospital Association, Minnesota Academy of Family Physicians, Minnesota Association of Community Health Centers, Minnesota Cancer Alliance, Minnesota Council of Health Plans, Minnesota Dental Association, Minnesota Medical Association, Minnesota Public Health Association, Minnesota Society for Public Health Education, Minnesota Youth Council, MNAAP – Minnesota Chapter of the American Academy of Pediatrics, Mowery Communications, LLC, NAMI Minnesota, NorthPoint Health & Wellness, Olmsted Medical Center, Parents Against Vaping e-cigarettes, PartnerSHIP 4 Health, Perham Health, Public Health Law Center, Rainbow Health, SEIU Healthcare Minnesota, Steele County Public Health, Tobacco-Free Alliance, Twin Cities Medical Society, UCare, WellShare International, Winona County Alliance for Substance Abuse Prevention. Find out more at: smokefreegenmn.org.

SOURCE Minnesotans for a Smoke-Free Generation

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