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AACR Applauds Biden Administration for its Plan to Protect the Public from the Dangers of Menthol Cigarettes and Flavored Cigars

The announcement was in response to a 2013 citizen petition that outlined the science and called for a ban on menthol flavored cigarettes

WASHINGTON, D.C. – The American Association for Cancer Research (AACR) applauds the Biden administration, the Department of Health and Human Services, and the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) for announcing a plan to ban menthol cigarettes, as well as menthol and other flavors in mass-produced cigars, including small cigars popular with young people.

Menthol cigarettes constitute about one-third of the total cigarette market, and are preferred by African Americans, young people, women, Hispanics, and those with lower socioeconomic status. Insider documents from tobacco companies revealed that in order to maintain or increase market share for menthol cigarettes, African American and urban neighborhoods were specifically targeted with aggressive marketing and sales tactics.

“The AACR has been raising awareness about the dangers of menthol and other flavored tobacco products for 10 years, including signing the citizen petition that spurred yesterday’s decision from the FDA,” said Roy S. Herbst, MD, PhD, chief of medical oncology at Yale Comprehensive Cancer Center and chair of the AACR’s Subcommittee on Tobacco Products and Cancer. “Banning these flavors is a vitally important start to addressing predatory industry practices that prey on the most vulnerable Americans and cause health disparities.”

Menthol’s cooling and anesthetic properties mask the harsh taste of tobacco and feel of cigarette smoke. Yet when Congress banned flavored cigarettes through the 2009 Family Smoking Prevention and Tobacco Control Act (Tobacco Control Act), lawmakers allowed the popular menthol cigarettes to remain on the market and asked the FDA to determine the impact of menthol cigarettes on public health.

Menthol cigarettes have been associated with numerous public health problems, including increased initiation of smoking and progression to habitual smoking, particularly for young people; increased craving for and dependence on cigarettes; and reduced success in smoking cessation, particularly for African American smokers.

“For decades, the AACR has been at the forefront of developing and supporting policies that slow tobacco use, decrease tobacco-related diseases, and reduce the disparities in tobacco use and subsequent disease,” said Margaret Foti, PhD, MD (hc), chief executive officer of the AACR. “Therefore, yesterday’s action by the Biden administration to ban menthol cigarettes will protect public health, reduce cancer health disparities, and save lives, especially since tobacco use accounts for 30 percent of all cancer deaths and incidence and is causally associated with 18 different human cancers including lung, head and neck, stomach, pancreas, colon, and cervical cancers.”