Tobacco Products Scientific Advisory Committee Takes Historic Step to Save Lives from Tobacco
WASHINGTON, March 18, 2011 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- Today the Food and Drug Administration's (FDA) Tobacco Products Scientific Advisory Committee (TPSAC) determined that the scientific evidence establishes that removal of menthol cigarettes from the market would benefit public health in the United States. This announcement has been long awaited by public health groups and many in the African American community. If the FDA acts on TPSAC's compelling findings and requires that tobacco companies take menthol cigarettes off the market, it is bound to save hundreds of thousands of lives from the deadly toll of tobacco.
"We believe that the best evidence shows that menthol cigarettes encourage smoking initiation and decreases smoking cessation so we are thrilled with TPSAC's conclusion. We urge the FDA to promptly act on TPSAC's findings. Many menthol smokers will likely use a ban on menthol as an opportunity to quit, and it will save their lives," said Cheryl G. Healton, DrPH, President and CEO of Legacy®. "Without the minty lure of menthol cigarettes, fewer youth will be enticed to take up this deadly addiction. The result will be many more Americans living longer, healthier lives."
Legacy has been a leading advocate in the public health community in urging a ban on menthol cigarettes. Menthol is the only flavor in cigarettes that had not been banned by the FDA since the agency acquired regulatory authority over tobacco products in 2009, even while research has shown they are smoked disproportionately by youth and African Americans. Current research shows that menthol use is on the rise among young people, and public health groups have long-contended that it is a major factor – and has been designed and marketed to be a major factor – in youth smoking initiation.
"We commend TPSAC for recognizing menthol for what it is – a tool to soothe the throat and ease discomfort associated with smoking. By eliminating it, we can go a long way toward preventing our nation's youth from being recruited as 'replacement smokers' for those who quit smoking or who lose their lives to tobacco-related disease. We applaud the committee for their leadership on this issue as following their lead will result in stemming the tobacco epidemic in a real and measurable way," Dr. Healton said.
Additionally, menthols have historically been aggressively marketed to racial minority communities. In fact, about 80 percent of African-American smokers use menthol products including about 80 percent of black adolescent smokers. Menthol use is also high among other minority youth: menthols are smoked by more than half of Hispanic middle school smokers (57.9 percent), Hispanic high school smokers (56.4 percent), and Asian American middle-school smokers (57.4 percent). In October 2010, Legacy joined the NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund, Inc., National African American Tobacco Prevention Network (NAATPN) and the African American Tobacco Control Leadership Council (AATCLC) in a collective call to ban menthol as a flavoring in all tobacco products.
Legacy is dedicated to building a world where young people reject tobacco and anyone can quit. Located in Washington, D.C., the national public health organization helps Americans live longer, healthier lives. Legacy develops programs that address the health effects of tobacco use, especially among vulnerable populations disproportionately affected by the toll of tobacco, through grants, technical assistance and training, partnerships, youth activism, and counter-marketing and grassroots marketing campaigns. The foundation's programs include truth®, a national youth smoking prevention campaign that has been cited as having contributed to significant declines in youth smoking; EX®, an innovative public health program designed to speak to smokers in their own language and change the way they approach quitting; and research initiatives exploring the causes, consequences and approaches to reducing tobacco use. The American Legacy Foundation was created as a result of the November 1998 Master Settlement Agreement (MSA) reached between attorneys general from 46 states, five U.S. territories and the tobacco industry. Visit http://www.legacyforhealth.org/.