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Attorney General William Tong

01/22/2021

Attorney General Tong Urges FDA to Ban Menthol Cigarettes

(Hartford, CT) – Attorney General William Tong joined a bipartisan coalition of 23 attorneys general led by Illinois Attorney General Kwame Raoul and Idaho Attorney General Lawrence Wasden in calling on the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to ban menthol cigarettes. In a letter submitted today, the coalition asserts that a ban on menthol cigarettes would benefit public health overall, decrease youth smoking, and help mitigate the harm these products bring to minority populations.

“The FDA must act immediately to ban menthol cigarettes. The scientific research shows that menthol is a starting point for youth who begin smoking and become addicted and that these products disproportionately affect communities of color,” Attorney General Tong said. “We are supportive of the proposals in the Connecticut General Assembly to ban the sale of these products in-state and a federal ban would save thousands of lives and improve public health outcomes across the nation.”

The letter submitted by the attorneys general urges the FDA to complete rulemaking to prohibit menthol cigarettes. The coalition argues that such a prohibition would save thousands of lives and should be implemented immediately. Despite the overall decline in non-menthol smoking, the coalition points out that the prevalence of menthol smoking has remained constant in recent years – and disproportionately impacts youth and minority populations. Menthol remains the primary reason youths begin, continue and become addicted to smoking. Menthol in cigarettes disguises their harsh flavor, making it attractive for beginners who experiment with cigarettes, and ultimately become addicted. The attorneys general state that menthol cigarettes remain a major barrier to smoking cessation and the reduction of smoking-related health conditions.

In the letter, the attorneys general highlight the FDA’s own data showing the addictiveness of menthol cigarettes. Research into the health impact of menthol in cigarettes conducted by the FDA and its Tobacco Products Scientific Advisory Committee (TPSAC) concluded that the removal of menthol cigarettes from the marketplace would benefit public health. Reports issued by both entities determined menthol cigarettes were associated with increased smoking initiation by youth and young adults, greater likelihood of progression to regular smoking, reduced success in smoking cessation, and greater addiction and nicotine dependency among smokers.

The attorneys general point to 2019 data that estimated 46.7 percent of middle and high school-aged smokers use menthol cigarettes. Studies have also shown that the proportionate use of menthol cigarettes is even higher among African American youth, as menthol cigarettes are marketed disproportionately to younger people and African Americans. Recent data shows 89 percent of all African American smokers smoking menthol cigarettes – compared to 26 percent of white smokers. More than 93 percent of African American smokers began cigarette usage by smoking menthol cigarettes.

Joining Attorneys General Tong, Raoul and Wasden in submitting the letter are the attorneys general of Delaware, the District of Columbia, Hawaii, Iowa, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Minnesota, Nebraska, New Mexico, New York, North Carolina, the Northern Mariana Islands, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Puerto Rico, Vermont, Washington, and Wisconsin.

The letter is available here.
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