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Industry leaders urge FDA to ban menthol cigarettes

October 19, 2010
by Press Release
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New York — Joseph A. Califano, Jr., Chairman and Founder of The National Center on Addiction and Substance Abuse (CASA*) at Columbia University and former U.S. Secretary of Health, Education, and Welfare, and Louis W. Sullivan, MD, a CASA Columbia board member and former U.S. Secretary of Health and Human Services, said that they strongly support a U.S. Food and Drug Administration ban on menthol in cigarettes. Earlier this year Sullivan and Califano asked the Tobacco Products Scientific Advisory Committee to recommend that the FDA ban menthol in cigarettes.

"It is no secret that blacks have long been targeted by marketing campaigns for menthol cigarettes, a strategy that has been proven disturbingly effective. Almost 50,000 blacks die each year from smoking related diseases and thousands more are crippled by smoking related ailments. More black women get lung cancer than breast cancer and black men are 50 percent more likely to get lung cancer compared to white men," said Sullivan.

"Masking the harsh flavor and burn of tobacco with a cool minty taste is a surefire way to get children to begin to smoke, which is particularly troubling because 45 percent of smokers aged 12 to 17, and 82 percent of black or African American smokers age 12 or older are smoking menthol cigarettes, and we know that 90 percent of adult smokers were hooked as teens," said Califano.

"We are disappointed that these organizations that have supported civil rights for black Americans have issued statements asking the Food and Drug Administration to continue to allow the tobacco industry to prey on black Americans by marketing menthol cigarettes to them. It is crucial that the Tobacco Products Scientific Advisory Committee recommend that menthol be banned from cigarettes for the health and safety of all Americans, but especially for black Americans," added Califano and Sullivan.

As former United States Secretaries of Health, both Califano and Sullivan are very conscious of the fact that tobacco addiction disproportionately affects minority populations and have been trying to diminish the marketing of the tobacco industry to blacks and have written op-eds addressing the tobacco industry's targeting the black community with menthol cigarettes.

* The National Center on Addiction and Substance Abuse at Columbia University is neither affiliated with, nor sponsored by, the National Court Appointed Special Advocate Association (also known as "CASA") or any of its member organizations, or any other organizations with the name of "CASA.”