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North Carolina AG Josh Stein calls for ban on menthol cigarettes
23 states urge prohibition as public health benefit
Published Sunday, January 24, 2021 1:00 pm
by Herbert L. White

North Carolina Attorney General Josh Stein has joined 22 other states in calling on the Food and Drug Administration to prohibit menthol-flavored cigarettes as a public health benefit by decreasing youth smoking and the harm it causes communities of color, especially Black Americans.

North Carolina has joined 22 other states in demanding a ban on menthol cigarettes.

Attorney General Josh Stein is one of 23 state attorneys general to call on the Food and Drug Administration to prohibit menthol smokes as a public health benefit by decreasing youth smoking, and limit harm to people of color, especially Blacks.

“Menthol cigarettes are designed to be easier to smoke,” Stein said in a statement. “That means they make it easier to get hooked. What’s more, they’re marketed in ways that disproportionately harm young people and people of color. I urge the FDA to ban menthol cigarettes and help us prevent another generation of North Carolinians from become addicted to nicotine and suffering the consequences in years to come.”

In a letter to the FDA, the attorneys general contend an immediate prohibition would save thousands of lives. Fewer Americans are smoking non-menthol cigarettes, but menthol smoking, which disproportionately impacts young adults and people of color, is unchanged in recent years.

In 2019, an estimated 46.7% of middle and high school-aged smokers used menthol cigarettes, but the rate is even higher among Black youth. Data also shows that 89% of African Americans who smoke prefer menthol compared to 26% of white smokers.

Research into the health impacts of menthol in cigarettes conducted by the FDA and its Tobacco Products Scientific Advisory Committee found menthol is associated with increased youth smoking initiation, promotion to regular smoking, reduced success in cessation, and greater addiction and nicotine dependency.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Black Americans usually smoke fewer cigarettes and start smoking at an older age than whites but are more likely to die from smoking-related diseases. Tobacco use is a major contributor to heart disease, cancer, and stroke – the three leading causes of death among African Americans.

Menthol disguises cigarettes’ harsh flavor, which makes it easier to hook beginners and ultimately become addicted. Menthol smokers are less likely to successfully quit than those who prefer non-menthol cigarettes. According to the CDC, among Black adult smokers, 72.8% report they want to quit compared to 67.5% of whites, 69.6% of Asian Americans, 67.4% of Hispanics, and 55.6% of American Indians/Alaska natives. Although 63.4% of Blacks report they’ve tried to quit, the CDC found they’re less likely to succeed than whites and Hispanics, perhaps because of lower utilization of cessation programs.

Stein has been an anti-nicotine advocate with litigation against the smoking and vaping industries. He filed suit against e-cigarette manufacturer Juul in 2019 for aggressively marketing products to young people and misrepresenting the dangers of nicotine in e-cigarettes. He also filed lawsuits against e-cigarette companies that year for targeting children and slipshod age verification processes. The courts blocked most of those manufacturers from selling their products in North Carolina for the duration of the lawsuits.


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