Press Release

Big city health officials push Biden Administration to eliminate menthol cigarettes

February 2024

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Washington, DC—In a letter sent December 4 to Office of Management and Budget (OMB) leadership, the Big Cities Health Coalition urged OMB’s Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs to “complete its review of the Tobacco Product Standard for Menthol in Cigarettes (menthol cigarette rule) and to allow it to be issued in final form without delay,” ideally by the end of this year.

The coalition of 35 big city health officials are particularly concerned about the role menthol cigarettes play in making smoking appealing to youth (which leads to initiation) and the substantial harm the products have caused to Black Americans in particular.

A federal ban would have a much more significant impact than a local ban. It would help protect the health of people throughout the country, particularly in those communities that are preempted from regulating tobacco and in those where it is too challenging politically to impose these types of restrictions.

Minneapolis Health Commissioner Damōn Chaplin

“For more than 60 years, the tobacco industry has targeted Black Americans, as well as youth and LGBTQIA+ populations, with marketing and price promotions for menthol cigarettes,” said BCHC Executive Director Chrissie Juliano, MPP. “Cities have led the charge in the fight against flavored tobacco products, but stopping menthol cigarette sales is really something that must be done nationally in order to protect all Americans from the danger of tobacco-related disease. Ending menthol sales will save thousands upon thousands of lives, particularly Black lives. It is also the Administration’s only hope to truly achieve their cancer moonshot goals.”

Minneapolis Health Commissioner Damōn Chaplin noted that while his city has restricted menthol sales since 2018, federal restrictions are still critically important. “A federal ban would have a much more significant impact than a local ban. It would help protect the health of people throughout the country, particularly in those communities that are preempted from regulating tobacco and in those where it is too challenging politically to impose these types of restrictions.”

City of Columbus Health Commissioner Mysheika Roberts, MD, MPH, agreed that federal restrictions are the right choice for public health. “These flavored tobacco products are the gateway to a lifetime use of tobacco products, which comes with medical issues that need to be addressed and shorten the life expectancy. So we urge the Biden Administration to keep Americans safe from the dangers of menthol flavored tobacco nationwide.”

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TIMELINE: Recent calls by BCHC leadership pushes for federal menthol restrictions

Oct. 16, 2023

Washington Post: Health care should focus not on choices made but on choices available (letter to editor from Columbus and Cleveland health commissioners)

Nov. 5, 2023

BCHC joins 79 national public health groups to voice full support for federal menthol restrictions in a full-page Washington Post ad

Dec. 4, 2023

BCHC letter to OMB (linked above)

Dec. 5, 2023

Washington Post: Biden ban on menthol cigarettes to be delayed amid political concerns, officials say

Dec. 6, 2023

ABC News: Biden Administration pulls back from banning menthol cigarettes

Dec. 6, 2023

NBC News: Biden Administration delays ban on menthol cigarettes until 2024

Dec. 6, 2023

The Hill: Public health groups alarmed at White House delay of menthol cigarette ban 

Jan. 9, 2023

National Journal: Menthol ban divides health, criminal-justice advocates 

Jan. 10, 2023

Washington Post: White House weighs menthol cigarette ban

Jan. 11, 2023

BCHC holds press briefing – hear audio clips on Public Health Review Morning Edition

Jan. 24, 2023

Washington Post: Banning menthol cigarettes (letter to editor from BCHC executive director)

Jan. 30, 2023

NBC News: Ohio reverses local flavored tobacco bans, infuriating doctors

About the Big Cities Health Coalition
The Big Cities Health Coalition (BCHC) is a forum for the leaders of America’s largest metropolitan health departments to exchange strategies and jointly address issues to promote and protect the health and safety of their residents. Collectively, BCHC member jurisdictions directly impact more than 61 million people, or one in five Americans.

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