We write in support of prohibiting menthol cigarettes, which is a key part of the Reversing the Youth Tobacco Epidemic Act (H.R. 2339). There is overwhelming scientific evidence that menthol cigarettes have had a profound adverse effect on public health. Removing them from the market would drive down tobacco use and the death and disease it causes, particularly among youth and African Americans.

Menthol cigarettes are popular with youth. Over half of youth smokers – and seven in ten African American youth smokers – smoke menthol cigarettes. Menthol cools and numbs the throat and reduces the harshness of tobacco, making it easier and more appealing for youth to start smoking. In 2013, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) released a report finding that menthol cigarettes lead to increased smoking initiation among youth and young adults, greater addiction, and decreased success in quitting smoking. An FDA scientific advisory committee concluded, “Removal of menthol cigarettes from the marketplace would benefit public health in the United States.”

Smoking-related illnesses are the number-one cause of death in the African American community and claim the lives of approximately 45,000 African Americans each year. Menthol cigarettes are a major reason why. Eighty-five percent of all African American smokers smoke menthol cigarettes, which is a direct result of a decades-long marketing campaign by the tobacco industry aimed at the African American community. African Americans generally have higher levels of nicotine dependence as a consequence of their preference for mentholated cigarettes.

Estimates of the harm menthol cigarettes cause to African Americans are alarming. The FDA advisory committee found that the marketing and availability of menthol cigarettes increases the overall prevalence of smoking and reduces smoking cessation among African Americans. In 2011, it estimated that by 2020, 4,700 excess deaths in the African-American community will be attributable to menthol cigarettes, and over 460,000 African Americans will have started smoking because of menthol cigarettes.

Read Full Statement: Public Health Groups Support Prohibition of Menthol Cigarettes 10.16.19