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Young people urge White House to take action on menthol

Young people across the country united for truth’s annual Moment of Action, which this year focused on urging the White House to finalize the Food and Drug Administration’s (FDA) proposed rules on menthol cigarettes and flavored cigars. In Washington, D.C., 27 young activists met last month with White House officials and 35 members of Congress. Young people around the nation watched a series of videos by truth, and more than 800 have signed a petition supporting the removal of menthol flavored tobacco products from the market.

Once finalized, the FDA’s proposed rules would remove menthol as a characterizing flavor in cigarettes and eliminate all characterizing flavors from cigars. Research shows that flavors play a significant role in enticing youth and young adults to use tobacco products. Eliminating menthol cigarettes and flavored cigars is both a public health and a social justice issue, as the tobacco industry has strategically and aggressively targeted Black Americans with these products for decades. As of 2020, 81% of Black Americans who smoke use menthol cigarettes, largely as a result of the industry’s marketing tactics. Between 1980 and 2018, menthol cigarettes alone were responsible for 378,000 premature deaths in the U.S. Despite making up just 12% of the population, Black Americans accounted for 41% of those deaths.

“My father ended up passing from medical complications, and he used to smoke menthol cigarettes,” said truth Ambassador Kacey King, who told the White House how she purchased menthols for her father at a local gas station when she was just 7 or 8 years old.

White House misses latest deadline to finalize menthol and flavored cigar rules

The White House recently missed its deadline of finalizing the rules by March 2024, the latest in a series of delays that come in the wake of pressure from the tobacco industry. As part of its intense lobbying efforts, the industry has attempted to spread fear that eliminating menthol cigarettes would unfairly target Black Americans and lead to further criminalization and law enforcement abuse. However, the FDA has made it clear that enforcement would be focused on manufacturers and retailers, not individual consumers. A recent poll commissioned by the Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids shows that 62% of Black Americans support removing menthol cigarettes.

Truth Initiative continues to press the Administration to finalize the menthol cigarette and flavored cigar rules. Failing to do so would deal a devastating setback to health equity and social justice that would reverberate for years to come.

“I don’t want to end up having kids and then having them fight these same battles that ultimately lead to death,” said truth Ambassador Mattie Harris.

truth provides young people a quit vaping program and leadership opportunites

Truth Initiative provides This is Quitting, a free and anonymous text messaging program designed to help young people quit vaping. The first-of-its-kind, evidence-based quit program has helped over 700,000 young people to date on their journey to quit vaping. To enroll, teens and young adults can text DITCHIT to 88709.

*You'll get daily texts full of advice and support from experts and other quitters just like you. Enter your mobile number to get started. By clicking SUBMIT, I agree I'm cool with receiving emails and texts from truth and agree to the Terms & Conditions. Text STOP to opt-out. Expect texts daily. No purchase necessary. Msg & Data Rates May Apply.

Truth Initiative also provides young people with several leadership opportunities through the College Leader and Ambassador programs. truth Ambassadors work with Truth Initiative staff to recruit their peers, share their stories and experiences, and advocate to campus, local, state, and national decision-makers to establish tobacco- and vape- free communities. These young leaders receive financial support to create and promote projects that inspire tobacco-free communities.

“I found that it was a great opportunity to branch out and challenge myself — in terms of [organizing] events in my community — to raise awareness about the harms of using tobacco and grow as a leader,” said truth Ambassador Kaitlin Gentile.

“I am forever grateful for that experience, and I highly recommend it for everyone.”