Commission Calls on the Obama Administration to Let the FDA Act and Ban Menthol Flavoring in Cigarettes

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Former U.S. Secretaries of Health, Surgeons General, Directors of

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Urge Lorillard, R.J.

Reynolds and Philip Morris to Stop Marketing and Selling Menthol


WASHINGTON, March 5, 2014 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- The Citizens'

Commission to Protect the Truth, a group of all living former U.S.

Secretaries of Health, Education, and Welfare; U.S. Secretaries of

Health and Human Services; U.S. Surgeons General; and Directors of the

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention from every administration,

Republican and Democrat, since that of President Lyndon B. Johnson, is

urging Lorillard (Newport), R.J. Reynolds Tobacco Company (Kool and

Salem) and Philip Morris (Marlboro Menthols) to immediately stop

marketing and selling menthol cigarettes.

In letters to these tobacco companies' chief executives, former

Secretary of Health, Education, and Welfare Joseph A. Califano, Jr.

and former Secretary of Health and Human Services, Louis W. Sullivan,

M.D., Chair and Vice Chair of the Commission, said, "Such action is

imperative to avoid encouraging children and teens to start and

continue smoking and to avoid the devastating impact of menthol

cigarettes on the African-American community."

In a joint statement the former cabinet officers called menthol "the

spoonful of sugar that makes the deadly medicine these companies are

selling go down." They pointed to overwhelming evidence that menthol

disguises the harsh taste of tobacco and makes quitting more

difficult, and accused these companies of aggressive marketing to

African-Americans which has "savaged" the black community with smoking

related deaths and crippling diseases like cancer, heart disease and

respiratory ailments like emphysema.

The Commission also called upon the Obama Administration to allow the

Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to act on its Tobacco Products

Scientific Advisory Committee's three year old recommendation that the

FDA ban menthol as a characterizing flavor in cigarettes based on the

distinguished Committee's finding that removal of menthol cigarettes

from the market would benefit the public health. In 2009, President

Obama signed into law the Family Smoking Prevention and Tobacco

Control Act, which banned all characterizing flavors in cigarettes

except menthol, but directed the Scientific Advisory Committee to

immediately look into menthol flavoring and gave the FDA authority to

ban such flavoring.

In the five years since the Tobacco Control Act was signed, more than

two million 12- to 17-year-old children have started smoking and

scores of thousands of African-Americans who smoke menthol cigarettes

have died or been crippled by cancers and heart and respiratory


Numerous scientific studies, before and after the Scientific Advisory

Committee report, demonstrate that removing menthol from cigarettes is

one of the most powerful measures the FDA can take to improve

Americans' health. Today the Citizens' Commission released a new

report, Time to Ban Menthol, written for the Commission by

CASAColumbia@, The National Center on Addiction and Substance Abuse at

Columbia University, and funded with a grant from Legacy@, the

nation's premier anti-smoking foundation. This report also confirms

these findings.

"President Obama has recently stated that he intended to use his phone

and his pen to help the most vulnerable in our society and promote the

public interest. He has repeatedly expressed his determination to

reduce health care costs," said Califano and Sullivan in a joint

statement. "There is no more powerful action the President can take

than to use his phone and pen to convince the executives of companies

that produce and sell menthol cigarettes to end their promotion and

sale of these products and to support the recommendation of the FDA's

Scientific Advisory Committee to ban menthol as a characterizing

flavor in cigarettes."

At today's press conference former U.S. Health Secretaries Califano

and Sullivan will be joined by Dr. Samuel Ball, President and CEO of

CASAColumbia and Professor of Psychiatry at Yale University School of

Medicine; Robin Koval, President and CEO of Legacy@; Dr. Thelma Daley,

past President of Delta Sigma Theta; Carol McGruder, Co-Chair of the

African American Tobacco Leadership Council; and Delmonte Jefferson,

Executive Director of the National African-American Tobacco Prevention


Menthol and African-Americans

More than 82 percent of African-American smokers (5.4 million) smoke

menthol cigarettes and nearly three times as many black smokers smoke

menthol cigarettes compared with white smokers. The proportion of

African-Americans who smoke menthol cigarettes has jumped from 69

percent in 2002 to more than 82 percent in 2010. Blacks who smoke

menthol cigarettes are less likely to quit than those who smoke non

menthol cigarettes. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention

found as long ago as 2003 that some 50,000 blacks die from smoking

related diseases and black men who smoke are more likely than white

men who smoke to get lung cancer.

Menthol and Teens

More than 90 percent of adults addicted to cigarettes were hooked

before they were 21, most as children and teens. While 37 percent of

smokers smoke menthol cigarettes, 50 percent of 12- to 17-year-old

smokers smoke menthol cigarettes. While cigarette smoking in general

has been declining, the proportion of smokers who smoke menthol

cigarettes has increased, particularly among the youngest smokers.

Rates of menthol cigarette use have increased most dramatically among

12- to 17-year-old smokers: from 36 percent in 2002 to 50 percent in

2010. Among young smokers ages 18 to 25, the proportion of smokers

who smoke menthol cigarettes has increased from 30 percent in 2002 to

46 percent in 2010.

"How many more children in America will menthol cigarettes hook and

how many more African-Americans must die or be crippled by cancers and

cardiovascular diseases before the chief executive officers of

Lorillard, Reynolds and Philip Morris remove their menthol cigarettes

from the market and before the Obama Administration allows the FDA to

use the authority Congress gave it to ban menthol flavoring in

cigarettes?" said Califano and Sullivan.

"Once secret tobacco industry documents confirm that the menthol

content in cigarettes has long been manipulated to encourage uptake

and dependence by youth, especially in communities of color," said

Robin Koval, CEO and President of Legacy@. "Menthol cigarettes are

smoked at dramatically higher rates by newer, younger smokers when

compared with older, established smokers. They are also smoked at

highly disproportionate rates by African-Americans and other

minorities. It's past time that the FDA ban menthol as a

characterizing flavor: the research supports it, the public health

community urges it and lives literally depend on it," she said.

Dr. Sullivan and Mr. Califano noted that research in the CASAColumbia

report indicated that if only 10 percent of menthol smokers quit and

only 10 percent of those who would have started smoking menthol

cigarettes did not start because of a ban, more than 323,000

smoking-attributable deaths would be avoided by 2050, including 91,744

black smokers. A 20 percent reduction would prevent 478,154

smoking-attributable deaths, including 164,465 blacks, and a 30

percent reduction would prevent 633,252 smoking-attributable deaths,

including 237,317 blacks.

Dr. Samuel Ball, CASAColumbia's President and CEO and Professor of

Psychiatry at Yale University School of Medicine, said, "Too many

people die from smoking-related illness; too many are unable to stop;

too many teenagers start smoking despite the risks. The decision to

ban menthol is long overdue to protect all Americans especially our

youth and African-Americans."

The Citizens' Commission to Protect the Truth was formed in 2004.

Among its efforts, the Commission shines a spotlight on the continued

need to fund truth@, the independent national youth counter-marketing

campaign mounted by Legacy@, and the only one with demonstrated

results in keeping children and teens from smoking. For more

information on the Commission, visit its website at

Logo -

SOURCE Citizens' Commission to Protect the Truth

-0- 03/05/2014

/CONTACT: Lauren Duran, 212-841-5260,; Ali McSherry, 212-841-5209,


CO: Citizens' Commission to Protect the Truth

ST: District of Columbia




-- DC76124 --

0000 03/05/2014 15:00:00 EDT

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