Black doctors call on Obama to ban sale of menthol products

A group of African-American doctors is calling on President Obama to ban the sale of menthol-flavored cigarettes, which data shows are heavily favored among black smokers. The African-American Tobacco Control Leadership Council sent a letter to the president in August, asking him to direct the Federal Drug Administration (FDA) to remove the products from the marketplace.

“Young African-Americans die disproportionately from tobacco-related disease compared to other people in the population,” Dr. Philip Gardiner, council co-chairman, told “The punchline here about menthol is it allows the poisons in tobacco cigarettes to go down easier.”

In 2013 the FDA found that menthol cigarettes likely pose a greater public health risk than regular cigarettes, but the agency stopped short of recommending a ban, according to the report. The FDA concluded menthol flavoring is associated with increased smoking “initiation” by younger people and greater addiction among all smokers.

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A 2010 Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) report found that 83 percent of black adult smokers and 72 percent of underage black smokers prefer menthol-flavored brands, according to the report.

“What we are asking of you, President Obama, can be accomplished rapidly with the stroke of a pen,” the letter to Obama said. “Your strong and decisive leadership can give our community a fighting chance against the number one killer of Black people, tobacco."

R.J. Reynolds Tobacco Co., which makes Newport cigarettes, told Thursday that menthol cigarettes are not more harmful than non-menthol cigarettes and therefore do not need to be regulated differently.