Times Chronicle & Public Spirit

In support of menthol cigarette ban

- Dr. William Gray System Chief, Division of Cardiovasc­ular Disease, Main Line Health Immediate; Past President, American Heart Associatio­n Greater Philadelph­ia

The U.S. Food and Drug Administra­tion (FDA) recently announced a proposed rule that would prohibit the sale of menthol cigarettes and flavored cigars across the country.

I strongly support removing menthol cigarettes from the market. Other flavored cigarettes were banned years ago, but menthol was left out. Menthol makes tobacco products less harsh and easier to start smoking, increases addiction and makes it harder to quit. Tobacco companies shouldn’t be allowed to make their deadly products even more appealing and addictive. Big Tobacco’s shameful record includes targeting youth and adults in Black communitie­s with menthol products resulting in the disproport­ionately higher use rates by Black smokers. Many young smokers start with menthol cigarettes, and younger smokers have the highest rates of menthol cigarette use.

Tobacco use is an independen­t risk factor for heart disease, linked to onethird of all heart disease deaths. Tobacco companies spend millions of dollars marketing their menthol brands to keep their addictive cigarettes cheap and highly visible in Black communitie­s. Black Americans suffer the greatest burden of tobacco-related death in the U.S. and 45,000 Black Americans die from tobacco-related disease each year. Black Americans and those living below the poverty line also have the most exposure to secondhand smoke, putting non-smokers and many children at risk.

Banning menthol cigarettes is essential to reduce the use of tobacco and advance health equity. I urge FDA to keep this rule strong and remove all menthol cigarettes from the market. Removing these products will save lives and reduce health care costs. I encourage FDA to move quickly and issue a final rule prohibitin­g menthol cigarettes by the end of this year.

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