Emanuel Seeks to Curtail Menthol Cigarette Use

Chicago mayor asks city health board, residents to participate in effort

CHICAGO -- Mayor Rahm Emanuel said that he has asked the Chicago Board of Health and the Chicago Department of Public Health (CDPH) to undertake a series of initiatives aimed at curtailing the use of menthol cigarettes by youth in Chicago.

Earlier this week, the U.S. Food & Drug Administration (FDA) issued an advance notice of proposed rulemaking to obtain information related to the potential regulation of menthol in cigarettes. It is seeking comments, data, research or other information that may inform regulatory actions it might take with respect to menthol in cigarettes.

The FDA also made available from its Center for Tobacco Products (CTP) preliminary scientific evaluation of public health issues related to the use of menthol in cigarettes, claiming "menthol cigarettes pose a public health risk above [emphasis added] that seen with nonmenthol cigarettes."

"Recognizing and reducing the impact of menthol cigarettes on the lives of our youth is an essential part of building a healthier Chicago and increasing the quality of life for all residents across the City," said Emanuel. "Working as partners with our health department, residents and youth, it is important that we do all that we can to encourage Chicago's youth to make smart, healthy decisions as they become adults."

In response to the mayor's call for action on this critical issue, the Chicago Board of Health and CDPH will host a series of town hall meetings to engage residents and national content experts in a conversation to identify "innovative, community-driven" solutions to reduce menthol cigarette use among Chicago's youth.

CDPH also is soliciting comments from Chicago residents via its website.

In a letter to Board of Health president,Dr. Carolyn Lopez, Emanuel highlighted what he called "the particular dangers menthol cigarettes pose to young people. Specifically, among African American youth ages 12-17 who smoke, 72% use menthol cigarettes and among LGBT youth, 71% use menthol. Furthermore, if smokers begin the habit before age 18, they are 75% more likely to smoke as adults. Put simply, menthol cigarettes attract youth who would not otherwise be smokers, and by taking action to limit their use, it will have a dramatic positive effect on the community as a whole."

In her response, Lopez said, "Big tobacco is using menthol flavored cigarettes to turn our children into lifelong addicts."

She said that she plans to host four town hall meetings from August to September to gather feedback and ideas from content experts and Chicago residents, including Chicago's African American, Latino and lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) communities. The first meeting will be in conjunction with the monthly Chicago Board of Health meeting on August 21. Following the town hall meetings, the Board of Health and CDPH will release a comprehensive report detailing the feedback from participants. The report will also include youth feedback and policy recommendations from public health professionals, scientists and other content experts to help Mayor Emanuel create a more comprehensive menthol tobacco abatement strategy.

CDPH will also launch the Tobacco Prevention & Control program ad campaign in October that focuses on menthol cigarette use. These programs are part of Emanuel's call to action under the City of Chicago's Public Health agenda entitled "Healthy Chicago." This is the first-ever comprehensive plan for public health put forth by the City, he said, and it continues to serve as a blueprint for a focused approach by CDPH to implement policies and systems changes to priorities and transform the health of Chicago.