AMA, other groups take aim at menthol smokes

(Disclosure: Rose Law Group represents Tobacco-Free Kids.)

By Mike Sunnucks | Rose Law Group Reporter

The American Medical Association (AMA) has joined the African American Tobacco Control Leadership Council (AATCLC) and Action on Smoking and Health (ASH) in a lawsuit that would result in the banning of menthol cigarettes by the Food & Drug Administration (FDA).

The federal lawsuit asks a federal court to compel the FDA to take action and ban menthol in cigarettes and other combustible tobacco products. A 2009 federal law banned certain flavored cigarettes but not menthol.
The AMA joined the lawsuit this week.

“For generations, tobacco companies have promoted menthol cigarettes to the African American community, preying especially on African American youth,” said AMA President Susan R. Bailey, M.D. “The results are clear and grim; although African Americans usually smoke fewer cigarettes and start smoking at an older age, they are more likely than Whites to die from smoking-related diseases like heart disease and stroke.

The American Medical Association has longstanding policies supporting banning menthol in combustible tobacco products and calling for the FDA to prohibit the use of flavoring agents in all tobacco products. We are proud to join AATCLC and ASH in this effort to compel FDA to meet its mandate and take action to ban menthol-flavored tobacco products. This action is long, long overdue.”

Menthol cigarettes have traditionally been marketed toward African American consumers.

The parties are represented by Pollock Cohen, LLP.

Read the full complaint here.

“The FDA has been derelict in their duties. Menthol flavored tobacco products should have been removed from the marketplace a decade ago when all the other flavors were removed,” said Dr. Phillip Gardiner, founding member and Co-Chair of the AATCLC. “Let’s be clear: menthol cigarettes and flavored little cigars have been and are the main vectors for death and disease into our community. The COVID-19 pandemic has just thrown a spotlight on the health disparities and unequal treatment faced by poor colored communities for hundreds of years in the United States. At this time nothing could be more helpful in saving Black Lives and ensuring that Black Lives Matter than getting the FDA to prohibit sale of menthol cigarettes and flavored little cigars.”

Tobacco is the leading cause of preventable death worldwide, smoking-related illnesses are the leading causes of death in the African American community, and 85 percent of African American smokers smoke menthol cigarettes, according to the plaintiffs.

“Menthol cigarettes have killed thousands of Americans, particularly African Americans, in the time the FDA has delayed action. This is more than a policy oversight; these are people’s lives. The FDA needs to take immediate action to ban menthol and protect people from these deadly products,” said Kelsey Romeo-Stuppy, Managing Attorney at ASH.

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