Snuff Out Menthol Cigarettes: Illinois Attorney General

CHICAGO — Illinois Attorney General Kwame Raoul and his Idaho counterpart Lawrence Wasden led a group of 23 attorneys general in calling on Monday for the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to ban menthol cigarettes. The group submitted a letter to the FDA indicating a ban would improve public health, decrease youth smoking and reduce the harm the product does to minority populations.

"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 said in a statement. "The FDA’s own data underscores the need to ban menthol cigarettes, which could save thousands of lives and support state efforts to combat youth smoking."

In the letter to the FDA, the attorneys general said the ban on menthol cigarettes could save thousands of lives and should be implemented right away. The letter suggested menthol cigarettes continue to be a major barrier to smoking cessation and their removal from the marketplace would lead to a reduction of smoking-related health conditions.

Although there has been a decline in non-menthol smoking, according to the attorneys general, menthol smoking numbers have remained constant, and those products disproportionally impact youth and minority populations.

In the letter, Raoul and the attorneys general pointed to the FDA’s data showing the addictiveness of menthol cigarettes. According to the letter, reports issued by the FDA and the Tobacco Products Scientific Advisory Committee (TPSAC) concluded the removal of menthol cigarettes from the marketplace would benefit public health.

The attorneys general suggested the reduction in youth smoking numbers in recent years almost certainly is related to the 1998 Tobacco Master Settlement Agreement (MSA), which placed restrictions on advertising, marketing and promotion of cigarettes. Forty-six states, including Illinois, joined the major cigarette manufacturers in that agreement, in which the parties committed to reducing underage tobacco use.

Despite these successes, the attorneys general argued, menthol remains the primary reason youths begin smoking and continue to become addicted to smoking. The use of menthol, they said, covers up the harsh flavor of cigarettes, thus making smoking more attractive to new smokers. They further suggested the sensory effects and flavor of menthol cigarettes make them more addictive, while menthol smokers are less likely to quit smoking than non-menthol smokers.

The attorneys general also stated their research has shown youth smokers perceive menthol cigarettes to be less-harmful than non-menthol cigarettes.

Citing data from 2019, the group of attorneys general said an estimated 46 percent of middle-school and high-school-age smokers use menthol cigarettes. The letter pointed to studies showing menthol use is even higher among African-American youth. Additionally, the group said research shows menthol use by African-American smokers of all ages is significantly higher than menthol use by white smokers of all ages.

In their 15-page letter submitted to the FDA, the attorneys general concluded the removal of menthol cigarettes from the marketplace would prevent more youth from smoking, improve smoking cessation outcomes and benefit public health overall.

Joining Raoul in signing the letter were attorneys general from other Midwest states: Iowa’s Tom Miller, Minnesota’s Keith Ellison and Wisconsin’s Joshua L. Kaul.

via Evanston, IL Patch

January 28, 2021 at 08:28PM

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