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The truth must be told above all, which is why we are offering our perspective after reading the article posted in The Gazette, entitled, Eric Garner’s mother warns of FDA-proposed menthol ban: ‘Don’t make it a racist thing’ by Gabrielle M. Etzel with the Washington Examiner.
The use of menthol (and all flavored) tobacco-nicotine products is a public health crisis! Tobacco use is the leading cause of preventable death globally. Smoking-related diseases are the leading cause of death in the Black/African American Community. Black men, in particular, have the highest rates of lung cancer. (Lung Cancer Incidence by Detailed Race-Ethnicity, National Library of Medicine, 2023-April-5, Lung Cancer Incidence by Detailed Race–Ethnicity – PMC (nih.gov))
Black smokers are dying disproportionately at approximately 40% excess deaths due to menthol cigarette smoking in the United States (U.S.) between 1980 and 2018, despite making up only 12% of the U.S. population. (Smoking & Tobacco Use/Menthol Smoking and Related Health Disparities/Black or African American People, Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), Menthol Smoking and Related Health Disparities (cdc.gov))
The Black Community has suffered from toxic menthol tobacco-nicotine use for far too long. Approximately 85% of Black smokers use menthol cigarettes, due to the predatory marketing tactics employed by the commercial tobacco industry. This has been a major factor contributing to the significant health disparity gaps in the Black Community. And, unfortunately, the tobacco companies continue to prey upon the vulnerabilities of the Black Community and other marginalized communities.
In the state of Colorado there are now seven cities who have taken an especially important stand to remove menthol (and other flavored) tobacco-nicotine products from the marketplace. The city of Golden on July 25, 2023, voted to ban menthol. Since 2019 five states have also enacted bans on the sale of menthol (and other flavored) tobacco-nicotine products as well. To date NO city or state that removed menthol and other flavored products has reported activation of illicit “black markets” arising to sell banned flavored tobacco-nicotine products. The truth is that there has been NO evidence to substantiate the claims that “black markets” selling flavored products will be ignited by flavor bans.
Let’s be real, the banning of menthol (and all flavored) tobacco-nicotine products is about the sale of these products and NOT individuals who may possess them. Banning these toxic products is about public health and not law enforcement. The criminalization of Black people by police in the United States of America is real, however it is due to the color of their skin and the racism that permeates our systems. Indeed, this is an equally important social justice issue! We believe that linking the menthol/flavor ban to increased harassment is an example of exploiting vulnerabilities, to ensure that these flavored products continue to be marketed disproportionately to Black people.
We respect the right for everyone to express an opinion on this issue. The National Medical Association (NMA) a highly respected organization, representing 50,000 Black physicians, joined the fight against Menthol cigarettes in 2020. On June 17, 2020 they joined the AATCLC (African American Tobacco Control Leadership Council), AMA (About the American Medical Association) and ASH (About Action on Smoking & Health) in filing a lawsuit against the FDA (Food & Drug Administration) requiring them to take action on menthol cigarettes.
NMA’s president at the time, Dr. McDougle, was quoted as saying,
“The defendants’ unlawful refusal to comply with their Tobacco Act obligations and address mentholated cigarettes undermines the NMA’s efforts to eliminate health disparities and promote healthy lifestyles among African Americans and other underserved populations, and impedes its mission to achieve parity and justice in medicine. “The menthol flavor added to cigarettes strengthens addiction and must be taken off the market.” Dr. Leon McDougle, President National Medical Association( 2020).
The NMA continues to support this stand against menthol, for the health of the Community!
The Federal Drug Administration(FDA) was granted the power to regulate the tobacco industry, including banning flavored cigarettes, placing limits on the advertising of tobacco products to minors and requiring tobacco companies to see FDA approval for new tobacco products with the 2009 Family Smoking Prevention and Tobacco Control Act. The wheels of justice can be slow, but it is the duty of the FDA to put people and public health before the profits that are produced pedaling these poisons. The American Medical Association’s president, Dr. Bailey (2020) concurred that a menthol ban was necessary
“We will not sit idly by while tobacco companies continue to market menthol cigarettes to the Black community and prey on Black youth, and we cannot wait any longer for FDA to fulfill its long-overdue mandate to address this crisis. We are proud to join with NMA, AATCLC and ASH in this effort to compel FDA to finally meet its mandate and act immediately to ban menthol-flavored tobacco products. “ AMA President Susan R. Bailey, M.D. (2020)
(National Medical Association (NMA) joins AATCLC, AMA and ASH in Lawsuit Against the FDA, https://ash.org/nma-joins-lawsuit-against-fda/)
The FDA missed an August 31st, 2023 deadline to implement a rule banning menthol-flavored cigarettes. The “FDA’s delay in implementing the menthol ban is especially harmful to African Americans,” said National Medical Association President, Yolanda Lawson, MD. “Our patients suffer disproportionately from menthol flavored tobacco-related disease, disability and death.”
Banning menthol tobacco-nicotine products is the right thing to do. It is about SAVING LIVES! That is the truth!