Press Release

Senator Gillibrand, Officials And Community Leaders Announce Push For Menthol Cigarette Ban

Nov 6, 2023

More Than 50% of Adult Smokers In NYC Use Highly Addictive Menthol Cigarettes; Tobacco Use Is The Leading Preventable Cause Of Cancer And Cancer Death.

Today, U.S. Senator Kirsten Gillibrand stood with Civil Rights Activist Elder Kirsten John Foy, elected officials, community leaders, and advocates at Harlem Hospital announcing her push to ban the manufacturing and sale of menthol cigarettes. Studies show that menthol cigarettes are highly addictive and can be more difficult to quit than non-menthol cigarettes. Menthol cigarettes are currently used by more than half of adult smokers in NYC and disproportionately impact the health outcomes of Black New Yorkers. It is estimated that smoking in the U.S. would be reduced by 15% and that 324,000 to 654,000 smoking-related deaths could be avoided over 40 years if menthol in cigarettes were no longer available.

“In 2023, cigarettes are still killing far too many New Yorkers and Americans across the nation. Menthol cigarettes are especially addictive and the tobacco industry aggressively targets our kids to put them on the path to dependency at a young age,” said Senator Gillibrand. “Banning the manufacturing and sale of menthol in cigarettes could save as many as 600,000 lives over the next 40 years. This ban would also help address the deep racial disparities with menthol use that disproportionately affect African Americans. I’m proud to stand at Harlem Hospital with some of New York’s greatest advocates to call on OMB to act swiftly to approve the FDA’s proposed rules to effectively ban menthol, which will help decrease smoking rates in the U.S.”

“In 2009 the FDA created a two tier public health system by banning all flavored cigarettes except menthol. Since then millions of preventable deaths from smoking related diseases have ravaged our nation, marginalized communities and people of color in particular. With the FDA finalizing recommendations for rules changes that would close the menthol loophole we stand on the precipice of a quantum leap in public and personal health. The tobacco industry was born and fueled by antebellum slavery and continues to keep all smokers; and people of color who are the majority consumers of this deadly predatory product, in biochemical bondage. When the White House approves these rules changes, now under consideration by the Office of Management and Budget, we, as a nation, will have dealt a lethal blow to a classical slave industry which has stolen millions of lives and will have concurrently saved millions more in the process.” – Rev Kirsten John Foy, The Arc of Justice President & CEO

The tobacco industry aggressively targets its marketing to certain populations, including young people, women, and racial and ethnic minority groups, particularly African Americans. These groups are more likely to smoke menthol cigarettes compared to other population groups. Given the substantial harm to public health that menthol products cause, Senator Gillibrand will be calling on the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) to review the Food and Drug Administration’s (FDA) proposed rules in a timely manner to effectively ban the manufacturing and sale of menthol in cigarettes and flavored cigars can be issued. Specifically, FDA’s proposed rules:

1.      Prohibit menthol as a characterizing flavor in cigarettes.

2.      Prohibit characterizing flavors (other than tobacco) in all cigars and their components and parts.

For Senator Gillibrand’s letter, please click here.