California Attorney General Rob Bonta joined a bipartisan coalition of attorneys general in urging the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to swiftly adopt final product standards banning menthol cigarettes and flavored cigars from the U.S. marketplace. The original statement says that “FDA action to remove menthol cigarettes and flavored cigars is long overdue and supported by ample scientific evidence.” In their new letter, the coalition specifically highlights the need to remove these products from the marketplace to protect public health and address the systemic and disproportionate impact of these products on minority communities and other vulnerable populations.
“Every day, hundreds of Californians will smoke their first cigarette and start down a dangerous path with devastating health consequences,” said Attorney General Bonta. “There is no time to waste. I urge the FDA to quickly finalize proposed regulations banning menthol cigarettes and flavored cigars, which predominantly harm young persons and people of color. Any further delay will only cost additional lives.”
Overwhelming scientific evidence — including the FDA’s own findings and statements — leave no doubt that menthol cigarettes have far-reaching adverse impacts on public health, resulting in more smoking and more death and disease from tobacco use. A recent study, published in Tobacco Control, found that menthol cigarettes “were responsible for 10.1 million extra smokers, 3 million life years lost and 378,000 premature deaths” between 1980 and 2018.
Menthol flavoring, which disguises the harsh taste of cigarettes, remains a primary reason why young people initiate and become addicted to smoking — with more than half of all adult smokers aged 18-34 introduced to smoking through menthol cigarettes. Research shows that menthol cigarettes disproportionally harm the health of vulnerable populations, particularly African-Americans. Over 93% of African-American smokers initiated cigarette use with menthol cigarettes. Menthol cigarette use is also disproportionately high among LGBTQ+ smokers, smokers with mental health problems, and socioeconomically disadvantaged populations.
In the comment letter, the bipartisan coalition urges the FDA to issue final product standards removing menthol cigarettes from the U.S. market without delay. The coalition argues that the FDA’s proposed menthol ban is a critical step for advancing health equity and protecting public health and will not significantly increase illicit trade or preempt state or local restrictions.
Attorney General Bonta joins the attorneys general of Illinois, Pennsylvania, Idaho, Colorado Connecticut, Delaware, the District of Columbia, Hawaii, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Minnesota, Nevada, New Mexico, New York, North Carolina, Rhode Island, South Dakota, Vermont, and the territories of Guam, Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands in filing the comment letter.
A copy of the comment letter can be found here.