Advocacy Groups File Lawsuit Over Missed Federal Menthol Deadline

This is the second suit the groups have brought against the FDA over delays in publishing the menthol cigarette ban.
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WASHINGTON, D.C. — As a result of the White House missing another deadline to make a decision on a proposed federal menthol cigarette ban, the African American Tobacco Control Leadership Council, Action on Smoking and Health and the National Medical Association have filed a lawsuit against the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) in response to the inaction.

This is the second suit the groups have brought against the administration, after an initial filing in June 2020 which specifically sought to compel the FDA's determination on whether to add menthol to the list of prohibited characterizing flavors.

[Read more: FDA Sends Final Menthol Rule for Review]

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"There is absolutely no reason to further delay a policy that has been studied for more than 12 years, is supported by overwhelming scientific evidence and will save hundreds of thousands of lives. Make no mistake: Delays cost lives, especially Black lives," said Yolonda C. Richardson, president and CEO of the Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids, and Derrick Johnson, president and CEO of the NAACP in a released statement.

The Bush Administration's delay continues a fight that has pitted health experts, political leaders and industry representatives against each other. 

In January, a coalition of 21 attorneys general sent a letter to the White House Office of Management and Budget, urging officials to complete and implement the new menthol standards quickly. The ban has been seen not only as a priority of state officials but members of the federal Congressional Black Caucus, as well, due to overwhelming use of menthol cigarettes by adult Black smokers. 

On the other side of the issue have been industry associations such as NACS and the Convenience Distribution Association, which have taken issue with the nature of the ban, pointing to difficulties in enforcement and the financial hit brick-and-mortar retailers will experience. 

Critical reviews such as the recent study of Massachusetts' flavored tobacco ban also point to a rise of an illicit tobacco market if a wider federal ban goes into effect.

According to ABC News, the rules surrounding the ban were initially meant to be published last August but concerns among other interest groups led the White House to push back the deadline. Administration officials subsequently held meetings with groups opposed to the ban, including civil rights advocates, business owners and law enforcement officials.

"The menthol rule is … critical to achieving top priorities of the Biden Administration, including the President's Cancer Moonshot and the administration's commitment to promoting health equity," said Richardson and Johnson. "The administration must stand up to the tobacco industry and act now to save lives."

Editor's note: An article published by Convenience Store News yesterday included incorrect information on the projected date of the FDA's menthol ban. The article has been pulled with corrected and updated reporting on the ban published above.

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