WASHINGTON -- In a letter to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA), five U.S. senators called for a ban on menthol cigarettes, saying tobacco companies disproportionately target African Americans when promoting and marketing their products, according to the Associated Press.
Sen. Edward Markey, D-Mass., is leading the effort, saying in the letter that African Americans suffer the greatest burden of tobacco-related mortality of any ethnic or racial group in the United States.
Sent in mid-August, the letter to the FDA was signed by Sens. Elizabeth Warren, D-Mass.; Jack Reed and Sheldon Whitehouse, both Democrats from Rhode Island; and Richard Blumenthal, D-Conn.
Disagreeing with the ban, David Clement, North American affairs manager for the Consumer Choice Center, Arlington, Va., said such a law would only foster black markets and result in greater incarceration rates and less consumer choice and harm-reduction. “Sen. Markey’s call to ban menthol cigarettes is nothing but nanny state paternalism,” Clement said in a statement. “Rather than trying to enact heavy-handed legislation infringing on consumer choice, Sen. Markey should focus his efforts on promoting harm-reduction strategies, like vaping.”
In a public event on July 28, Dr. Scott Gottlieb, commissioner of the FDA, released a statement saying, among other things, that the agency would revisit the issue of flavored tobacco products, including menthol. Thomas Briant, executive director of NATO, Minneapolis, expressed confidence in the process that is in place. “In the new regulatory plan announced by FDA Commissioner Scott Gottlieb on July 28th, the FDA is planning to request comments from the public and the industry about potentially regulating flavored-tobacco products, including menthol, mint and wintergreen flavors. This means that the FDA is taking the appropriate course to first obtain public input and then determine whether any new regulations on flavored-tobacco products should be proposed.”
Bans on menthol-flavored tobacco products have made industry news this summer, with San Francisco and Minneapolis both passing new ordinances banning or restricting menthol sales.