DURHAM, NC – After a decades-long fight to eliminate mentholated tobacco products from the marketplace, advocates for a menthol ban may finally see forward motion. Several news outlets have reported that the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) will soon release a notice of proposed rulemaking to ban the sale of mentholated tobacco products. Since more than 88 percent of African American smokers choose menthols, the potential ruling is expected to have significant positive impacts on African American health.
Major African American civic, health and medical organizations such as NAATPN, Inc. (the National African American Tobacco Prevention Network), the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP), the National Urban League, the National Medical Association (NMA) and the African American Tobacco Control Leadership Council (AATCLC), have long voiced support for a ban on mentholated tobacco products and applaud this decision by the FDA. For the last ten years, NAATPN, Inc. has played an integral role in advocating for a ban on menthol. The organization supports local menthol sales restrictions and have created a national event called No Menthol Sunday to highlight tobacco’s deadly impact on black communities. The organization’s executive director Delmonte Jefferson recalls the disappointment he felt in 2009 when the FDA’s Family Smoking Prevention and Tobacco Control Act banned all flavors in cigarettes except menthol.
Jefferson says it was a blow to African American health and that the menthol ban is long overdue. “While we’re saddened by the number of lives lost and new smokers addicted over the past decade,” said Jefferson, “we’re pleased that the FDA is moving in this direction.”
Surveys have shown that if a menthol ban were in place, African Americans would be more likely to quit smoking rather than switch to non-mentholated tobacco products. Black health organizations are hopeful that the new ruling will catapult a wave in smoking cessation.
Dr. Niva Lubin-Johnson, president of the NMA, commented that the initiative would be life saving. “We commend the FDA for taking this long overdue action to help the patients we serve lessen the chances to become as addicted to cigarettes if they begin smoking. The NMA stands ready to support cessation efforts for those addicted to menthols and are ready to quit this deadly habit.” said Dr. Johnson.
“The process of banning menthol can take time, so we will remain vigilant in pursuing local menthol sales restrictions until the final rule is in effect,” Jefferson commented. NAATPN, Inc. is a non-profit organization that facilitates public health programs to benefit communities and people of African descent. NAATPN will hold its fourth annual No Menthol Sunday on May 19, 2019.