Exactly three weeks after the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) declared racism a serious public health threat, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) faces a decision that could have a significant impact on the health of the Black community.
The FDA could move forward with putting rules in place to ban menthol cigarettes. According to multiple reports, the Biden administration is expected to announce a plan to ban that specific type of cigarette.
“So, if they really want to improve the quality of life, if they really want to help change some of this trauma and despair that we're feeling right now within the country regarding Black and brown people, this is an area that they can move on. This is something that they actually can do,” said Portia Reddick White, VP of Strategic Partnerships at the Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids.
Black people have been the subject of decades of highly effective menthol marketing practices.
Recent research found 85% of all Black smokers use menthol cigarettes. And lung cancer kills more African Americans than any other type of cancer.
The issue is one that anti-tobacco groups have been battling the FDA on for years. They're optimistic the government will act now with racial equity at forefront.
“Help change lives, help save lives. People are dying from the morbidities of tobacco, specifically within the African American community. Lung disease, cancer, heart disease, diabetes, it's time for them to make a decision and move on,” said White.
There are other anti-smoking legislative efforts in the works targeting communities of color, including bills to remove barriers to the cost of smoking cessation products.
For now, the best free help available is through the quit line.
A CDC health survey report earlier this year found that over the last four decades, menthol helped recruit about 10 million extra smokers, causing nearly 400,000 pre-mature deaths.
It also directly called out the FDA, saying it had the authority to ban menthol in cigarettes under the 2009 Family Smoking Prevention and Tobacco Control Act.