Former U.S. surgeons general urge Biden administration to act on menthol cigarettes
DALLAS, Feb. 9, 2024 — Former U.S. Surgeons General under Democratic and Republican administrations, Regina Benjamin, M.D., MBA, and Jerome Adams, M.D., MPH, are urging the Biden administration to prohibit the sale of menthol cigarettes and flavored cigars, a move that would save lives in Black communities and others targeted by the tobacco industry.
“As former U.S. surgeons general, we call on the Biden administration to immediately finalize Food and Drug Administration rules that will prohibit the sale of menthol cigarettes and flavored cigars,” wrote Benjamin and Adams in a column published today in STAT News. “We join leaders nationwide in urging the White House to follow the science and get rid of these deadly products for good.”
Benjamin served as the 18th U.S. surgeon general from 2009-2013 under President Barack Obama. Adams served as the 20th U.S. surgeon general from 2017-2021 under President Donald Trump. Benjamin also is a member of the Board of Directors of the American Heart Association, a global force for healthier lives for all that is celebrating 100 years of progress this year.
Last October, after examining the issue for more than a decade, the FDA sent rules to end the sale of menthol cigarettes and flavored cigars to the White House for final regulatory review. But in December, the White House announced that the rules would be delayed. The rules have been sharply criticized by the tobacco industry and its allies.
Tobacco companies have long targeted specific populations with menthol and other flavored products. A 2022 report from Stanford Research into the Impact of Tobacco Advertising (SRITA), a research unit of Stanford Medicine, and the American Heart Association detailed Big Tobacco’s decades of marketing menthol products, especially to Black communities, women and youth.
Today, more than 80% of all Black people who smoke use menthol, and menthol use is high in Hispanic, Asian American, American Indian/Alaska Native and LGBTQ+ communities. Black youth are also more likely to smoke cigars than cigarettes and smoke cigars at a higher rate than other racial and ethnic groups.
“As surgeons general during both Republican and Democratic administrations, we have consistently pointed out the enormous toll of tobacco use, highlighted the stark health disparities that continue to ravage Black and minority communities and emphasized evidence-based measures to reduce smoking rates and save lives,” Benjamin and Adams wrote in their STAT News column. “We believe strongly that to protect public health, menthol cigarettes and flavored cigars should no longer be sold.”
“We urge the Biden administration not to be distracted by the tobacco industry and its apologists,” the authors wrote. “The administration should act instead in the interests of children, families and communities.”
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The American Heart Association is a relentless force for a world of longer, healthier lives. We are dedicated to ensuring equitable health in all communities. Through collaboration with numerous organizations, and powered by millions of volunteers, we fund innovative research, advocate for the public’s health and share lifesaving resources. The Dallas-based organization has been a leading source of health information for a century. During 2024 - our Centennial year - we celebrate our rich 100-year history and accomplishments. As we forge ahead into our second century of bold discovery and impact our vision is to advance health and hope for everyone, everywhere. Connect with us on heart.org, Facebook, X or by calling 1-800-AHA-USA1.
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