February 23, 2020
The Youth Tobacco Epidemic Act, HR 2339 is expected to go to the House next week.
The bill finally addresses characterizing flavors including menthol and mint which contribute to the difficulty new and long-time smokers experience when trying to quit. This means Congress can take the necessary step to improve the health outcomes of African Americans and reverse the youth e-cigarette epidemic.
Many people have noted the supposed unintended consequences associated with a ban on menthol. These have included an increase in police interaction with African American communities as well as a predicted rise of a black market of mentholated tobacco products. It is important to know that these issues were carefully crafted by the tobacco industry–for the tobacco industry’s benefit alone. In fact, almost 100 jurisdictions across the U.S. have already taken the initiative to protect their communities from menthol flavored tobacco products and have experienced no reported negative consequences. Furthermore, studies show that 47% of African American smokers would quit if menthol were banned.
The Surgeon General agrees that an effective end-game strategy to help people quit tobacco should include a restriction on the sale of flavored tobacco products. According to his full report, this is the way we will end the tobacco epidemic.
The tobacco industry has successfully and intentionally marketed menthol cigarettes to African Americans for decades. This has resulted in African American adults having the highest percentage of menthol cigarette use compared to other racial and ethnic groups. Restricting the manufacturing and sale of menthol cigarettes will increase the number of African Americans who attempt to quit, reduce the number of youth who start tobacco use and decrease the number of African American children exposed to second-hand smoke.
The tobacco industry has worked to protect menthol for years and has never prioritized the health and well-being of African Americans.
Prohibiting flavors including menthol in all tobacco products will increase quit attempts, decrease health morbidity and mortality and improve the lives of African Americans. We would appreciate the opportunity to set up a call to provide further education around the positive outcomes a ban of menthol flavored tobacco products will have on overall African American health, including the health of your constituents.