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Press Release

White House Decision Not to Issue Final Menthol Rule Represents Huge Loss for Public Health, Social Justice

Statement from Kathy Crosby, Truth Initiative CEO and President

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It is deeply disappointing that the Biden Administration has announced that it is delaying the final rule to remove menthol as a characterizing flavor in cigarettes. As a result, the Administration has lost an opportunity to save lives, protect youth, and stand up for social justice by reducing health disparities. The inaction by the White House to remove menthol from cigarettes is all the more reason for states and localities to take action to implement flavored tobacco product restrictions in their own jurisdictions.

Achieving President Biden’s ambitious Cancer Moonshot goal to cut cancer death rates in half over the next 25 years and significantly reduce health disparities requires bringing all resources to bear. Eliminating menthol cigarettes is of paramount importance to reaching that target, and the Administration’s failure to do so represents a self-inflicted wound that buys into a false narrative pushed by the tobacco industry and ultimately puts politics over public health. A poll conducted by the Washington D.C.-based Mellman Group found that 58% of voters favor a federal menthol removal; among Black voters, 62% support this action. Additionally, a CDC survey found that more than 62% of Americans support ending the sale of menthol products, yet this data is being ignored by the Administration. 

The inaction also represents a significant victory for the tobacco industry, whose well-documented exploitative practices have come at the expense of hundreds of thousands of lives. Young people, LGBTQ+ and Black Americans in particular have borne the unjust burden of tobacco-related death and disease due to menthol cigarettes — which are easier to start, more addictive and harder to quit. For decades, the industry has targeted Black Americans, fueling health disparities and damaging countless communities of color.

Further, menthol cigarettes are a gateway product to nicotine addiction that have plagued our nation for far too long, fostering dependence and proving more challenging to quit compared to non-menthol cigarettes. Studies show that youth and young adults are more likely to try a menthol cigarette as their first cigarette. In fact, 40.4% of all middle school and high school students who currently smoke cigarettes reported using menthol cigarettes, according to the 2023 National Youth Tobacco Survey.

The Administration claims that more discussion is necessary. That is simply a smoke-screen: It has been over a decade since the FDA's Tobacco Products Scientific Advisory Committee reviewed research on menthol cigarettes and unequivocally recommended their removal for the betterment of public health. Subsequent studies have only reinforced this conclusion. No more discussion is necessary. The time to act is now, but instead the Administration has taken a pass on protecting public health and saving lives.

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