BCHC urges Biden Administration to complete review of menthol rule

December 2023

Profile of young man exhaling smoke. Photo by Miguel Gonzelez / Unsplash

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.

In the letter, the coalition shared some of the key reasons why the rule should be finalized without delay:

  • Prohibiting menthol cigarettes will reduce youth smoking. Menthol cools and numbs the throat, reduces the harshness of tobacco smoke, and makes cigarettes more appealing to new smokers, particularly young people. As is well documented in the proposed rule, menthol facilitates experimentation, progression to regular smoking of menthol cigarettes, and contributes to greater nicotine dependence. Half of youth who have ever tried smoking started with menthol cigarettes, and menthol cigarettes were responsible for 10.1 million additional new smokers between 1980 and 2018.
  • Prohibiting menthol cigarettes will increase smoking cessation and save lives. Smoking remains the leading cause of preventable disease and death in the United States. Prohibiting menthol cigarettes, which are more difficult to quit than non-menthol cigarettes, will reduce this burden by increasing smoking cessation. Research estimates that prohibiting menthol cigarettes would prevent 654,000 smoking attributable deaths, including 255,000 deaths in the Black community, by the year 2060. That means that for every year menthol cigarettes remain on the market, there will be approximately 16,000 more smoking-caused premature deaths, including over 6,500 more deaths in the Black community.
  • Prohibiting menthol cigarettes would decrease tobacco-related health disparities and advance health equity, especially among Black Americans. Menthol cigarettes have long caused substantial harm to public health, particularly to Black Americans – and they continue to do so today. For more than 60 years, the tobacco industry has targeted Black Americans with marketing and price promotions for menthol cigarettes, and as a result, 85% of Black smokers smoke menthol cigarettes compared to 29% of White smokers. Consequently, Black Americans are less likely to successfully quit smoking and suffer disproportionately from tobacco-related disease and death. Despite accounting for 12% of the population, Black Americans represented 41% of premature deaths caused by menthol cigarettes between 1980 and 2018. In addition to youth and Black smokers, preference for menthol is also disproportionately high among Hispanic and Asian smokers, lesbian, gay, and bisexual smokers, smokers with mental health problems, socioeconomically disadvantaged populations, and pregnant women.

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Read the full letter
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