Dear Senator or Representative:
We write to express our strong support for proposed rules that the Food and Drug Administration has issued to prohibit the manufacture and sale of menthol cigarettes and flavored cigars. FDA’s proposals will substantially improve public health by reducing youth tobacco use, preventing tobacco-caused disease, and saving lives. We urge you to support FDA’s proposed rules and oppose any effort to prevent or delay FDA from finalizing and implementing them. It is time to put an end to the tobacco industry’s targeted efforts to use flavored products to lure youth into a lifetime of deadly addiction.
Tobacco use is the leading preventable cause of death in the U.S., responsible for nearly one in five deaths and more than $241 billion in health care costs each year. While smoking rates have declined, many communities continue to experience high rates of smoking and smoking-caused disease, including people with lower levels of income and education, individuals living in rural areas, Native Americans, people with a behavioral health condition, and the LGBTQ+ community. Congress gave FDA tools to reduce the number of people who die of cancer, heart disease, respiratory disease, and other tobacco-caused diseases. FDA is now proposing to use one of those tools – the ability to set tobacco product standards – to reduce the public health harms caused by menthol cigarettes and flavored cigars.
Menthol cools and numbs the throat, which helps mask the harshness of tobacco smoke and makes it easier for young people to start smoking. Menthol cigarettes are also more addictive and harder to quit than non-menthol cigarettes. As a result, menthol cigarettes have increased the number of youth who smoke and the number of people who die prematurely from smoking. Black communities, which have been the target of menthol cigarette marketing for decades, have been especially harmed by menthol cigarettes. Removing these products from the market would reduce the number of youth who become addicted to tobacco, save hundreds of thousands of lives, and advance health equity. Researchers estimate that removing menthol cigarettes from the market would prevent up to 654,000 smoking-related deaths over time, including over 255,000 smoking-related deaths among Black Americans.
Cigars, which come in hundreds of kid-friendly flavors like Cherry Dynamite and Tropical Fusion, are the second most popular tobacco product among youth. In 2022, half a million youth were current cigar smokers. Every day that passes, more than 800 kids try cigar smoking for the first time, and there is extensive evidence about the role flavors play in attracting youth to cigars. We need to protect kids from flavored cigars because cigar smoke is composed of the same toxic and carcinogenic constituents found in cigarette smoke. According to the National Cancer Institute, cigar smoking can cause cancer of the oral cavity, larynx, esophagus and lung.
FDA should finalize these proposed rules quickly. All flavors except menthol are already prohibited in cigarettes. Removing other flavored tobacco products from the market, including menthol cigarettes and flavored cigars, is supported by strong scientific evidence and is long overdue. We urge you to discourage any delays in the rulemaking process and reject any legislative efforts to restrict the ability of FDA to move forward with these rules or other efforts to reduce tobacco-caused disease and death. Strong FDA action to reduce tobacco use is critical, as tobacco use continues to claim the lives of nearly half a million Americans every year.
Coalition letter to House on menthol cigs and flavored cigars 2.21.23
Coalition letter to Senate on menthol cigs and flavored cigars 2.21.23