The tobacco industry’s aggressive marketing of menthol cigarettes in underserved communities has long been a key driver of tobacco-related health inequities, particularly among Black people and people who identify as LGBTQ+. Yet the 2009 Family Smoking Prevention and Tobacco Control Act excluded menthol from its prohibition on flavored cigarettes.
Last week, the US Food & Drug Administration (FDA) announced plans to redress this fundamentally unjust policy through new regulations to prohibit the manufacture and sale of menthol cigarettes and all flavored cigars. These new regulations, if implemented, would represent a significant victory for public health and the advancement of health equity.
FDA’s decision to act on menthol was not inevitable. This announcement is the direct result of decades of courageous, steadfast leadership from the African American Tobacco Control Leadership Council and The Center for Black Health & Equity, as well as a citizen petition filed by these organizations and the Public Health Law Center.
The planned FDA regulations would also build on local and state policy efforts to eliminate the sale of menthol cigarettes and other flavored tobacco products. ChangeLab Solutions is proud to have been at the forefront of these efforts. We worked directly with the City of Chicago when they adopted the nation’s first ordinance restricting the sale of menthol cigarettes, and we drafted the first model ordinance to completely prohibit the sale of menthol cigarettes and other flavored tobacco products. We continue to provide technical assistance to jurisdictions across the country that are working to advance tobacco-related health equity.
FDA’s announcement is only the beginning of an extended, years-long process to propose, adopt, and implement new federal regulations on menthol cigarettes and flavored cigars. Policy change at local and state levels will remain critical in the interim, as will efforts to ensure the equitable implementation and enforcement of all commercial tobacco control laws and policies.
Read the full announcement on FDA’s website, and learn more about addressing tobacco-related health inequities through point-of-sale policies. For additional information about the equitable enforcement of public health laws, including commercial tobacco control laws, check out our guide Equitable Enforcement to Achieve Health Equity and a recent joint statement, Racial Equity in Tobacco Control Enforcement.