Washington–Senator Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) joined Senator Edward J. Markey (D-Mass.) and a group of their colleagues to send a letter to the Department of Health and Human Services calling on the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to act on a pending citizens petition requesting a ban on menthol cigarettes and cigars. The letter comes as the FDA recently represented to a federal court that it will respond to the pending petition by April 29, 2021.
“As FDA develops its response to the 2013 citizen petition, we urge the agency to follow the science, grant the petition, and quickly promulgate a new rule to prohibit menthol in cigarettes and other combustible tobacco products.” write the senators in their letter to Department of Health and Human Services Secretary Xavier Becerra. “Doing so will protect youth from nicotine addiction and tobacco use, reduce tobacco-related health disparities, and save lives.”
The FDA has clear evidence of the harmful effects of menthol cigarettes on public health. The Tobacco Control Act of 2009 mandated the FDA’s Tobacco Products Scientific Advisory Committee (TPSAC) to study the public health impact of menthol, and in 2011, TPSAC issued a report that concluded “removal of menthol cigarettes from the marketplace would benefit public health.” Menthol numbs the throat and mitigates the harshness of tobacco smoke, making menthol cigarettes more appealing and easier to use for young people who are starting to smoke. These cigarettes, which the tobacco industry continues to market directly to communities of color, are also more addictive and harder to quit.
The FDA took initial steps to address the TPSAC’s findings in 2013, but has still not acted to ban menthol products.
In addition to Feinstein and Markey, the letter was also signed by Senators Patty Murray (D-Wash.), Sheldon Whitehouse (D-R.I.), Richard Durbin (D-Ill.), Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.), Chris Van Hollen (D-Md.), Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.), Jeff Merkley (D-Ore.), Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.), Ron Wyden (D-Ore.), Maggie Hassan (D-N.H.), Jack Reed (D-R.I.), Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio), Brian Schatz (D-Hawaii), Tina Smith (D-Minn.) and Cory Booker (D-N.J.).
Full text of the letter can be found here.