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Letter to the Editor...

Support Efforts to Ban Menthol Cigarettes

By Delmonte Jefferson | 7/31/2013, 4:39 p.m.
Chicago has one of the largest African American populations in the country, and having menthol banned in Chicago would be a big win for anti-tobacco control.

Last week, Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel took an unprecedented step to protect thousands of Chicago residents from the dangers of tobacco. Mayor Emanuel requested the Chicago Board of Health and the Chicago Department of Public Health (CDPH) to undertake a series of initiatives aimed at curtailing the use of menthol cigarettes by youth in Chicago.

The National African American Tobacco Prevention Network (NAATPN) commends Mayor Emanuel’s leadership on this issue, and we will provide full support to the Mayor as he works to loosen the death grip menthol flavored cigarettes has on thousands in Chicago. Nowhere is menthol’s grip felt more than in African American communities across this country, where about 84 percent of African American smokers smoke menthol cigarettes, compared to 24 and 32 percent of Caucasians and Hispanics, respectively.

In 2009, the FDA was given the authority to regulate a number of aspects of tobacco marketing and manufacturing, which resulted in the banning of all flavored cigarettes and smokeless tobacco, but menthol was excluded from the ban. NAATPN has been fighting to get menthol flavoring included in the ban since 2009.

Mayor Emanuel’s step to take action against menthol flavoring in cigarettes in Chicago, coupled with the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) naming Mitch Zeller (who is viewed favorably by proponents of tobacco control) as the new Director of the Center for Tobacco Products (CTP), gives NAATPN and its partners encouragement that a ban on menthol can happen in the near future. In fact, Mayor Emanuel’s actions come on the heels of the CTP announcing it will solicit public comments for 60 days on the public health impact of menthol in cigarettes.

Chicago has one of the largest African American populations in the country, and having menthol banned in Chicago would be a big win for anti-tobacco control. Mayor Emanuel will be holding town hall meetings in Chicago to seek solutions to move this issue forward. NAATPN will offer its expertise in anti-tobacco control to Mayor Emanuel and the CDPH to get real solutions to menthol.

NAATPN exists to empower, educate and protect African Americans from the predatory tactics of the tobacco industry, and menthol is a problem NAATPN and its partners are ready to help solve. Again, we applaud Mayor Emanuel’s first step as a leader among Mayors, and look to other city and mayoral leaders across the country to take steps to ban menthol in their jurisdictions.

Delmonte Jefferson is Executive Director of the National African American Tobacco Prevention Network.