Coalition of attorneys general urges swift action on menthol cigarette ban

In a concerted effort led by Illinois Attorney General Kwame Raoul, a coalition of 21 attorneys general, including prominent figures such as California Attorney General Rob Bonta, Connecticut Attorney General William Tong, and New York Attorney General Letitia James, has submitted a letter pressing the Biden administration to expedite the implementation of proposed regulations banning the sale of menthol cigarettes and flavored cigars.

The coalition, emphasizing the overwhelming evidence supporting the proposed FDA Rules, contends that the regulations are long overdue. Attorney General Raoul underscored the urgent need to address the impact of menthol tobacco products on public health, especially within minority communities and vulnerable populations, including young people.

“I am asking the FDA to ban menthol cigarettes and flavored cigars because even though cigarette use has decreased over the years, menthol-flavored cigarettes continue to attract and addict new smokers – particularly youth and minority smokers,” Raoul stated. He highlighted the FDA’s findings, emphasizing the potential to save thousands of lives and support state efforts to combat youth smoking.

Scientific evidence overwhelmingly demonstrates the detrimental effects of menthol cigarettes on public health, leading to increased smoking-related deaths and diseases. The coalition points out that tobacco companies strategically add menthol to disguise the harsh taste of cigarettes, making it a primary reason for the initiation and addiction of young smokers. The adverse impact is notably high among LGBTQ+ smokers, individuals with mental health problems, and socioeconomically disadvantaged populations.

The coalition’s letter draws attention to the tobacco industry’s historical marketing of menthol cigarettes in Black communities, resulting in a significant disparity in usage. In 2020, around 81% of non-Hispanic Black adults smoked menthol cigarettes, compared to 34% of non-Hispanic White adults.

The attorneys general urge the Biden administration to promptly finalize the review of the FDA’s proposed rules. Addressing concerns about potential illicit trade or criminalization, the coalition argues that the proposed menthol ban is crucial for advancing health equity and protecting public health. Moreover, they posit that banning menthol cigarettes and flavored cigars aligns with President Biden’s Cancer Moonshot initiative to “end cancer as we know it.”

Attorney General Raoul’s involvement is part of his ongoing commitment to safeguarding youth from the health risks associated with tobacco and e-cigarette use. In 2021, Raoul co-led a coalition advocating for the FDA to ban flavored tobacco products and enhance e-cigarette guidance. His legislative efforts in Illinois resulted in measures prohibiting the marketing of e-cigarettes to minors and combating misleading advertising.

Last year, Raoul announced a $462 million multistate settlement with Juul Labs Inc., restraining the company from marketing to youth. Additionally, a consent decree with Juice Man LLC prohibited its operations in Illinois over allegations of targeting minors.

For those seeking information and resources to quit tobacco, the Illinois Tobacco Quitline website or a call to 1-866-QUIT-YES is recommended.

Joining Attorney General Raoul in filing the letter are the attorneys general of Arizona, the District of Columbia, Hawaii, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, Nevada, New Mexico, North Carolina, Northern Mariana Islands, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Puerto Rico, Rhode Island, and South Dakota.

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