SPRINGFIELD – U.S. Senate Majority Whip Dick Durbin (D-IL) today released the following statement expressing his frustration that the White House and the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) have announced the delay of a Food and Drug Administration (FDA) regulation to prohibit the production and retail sale of menthol cigarettes:

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“With each additional day that menthol cigarettes remain on the market, Big Tobacco profits off the addiction and suffering of Americans. For too long, communities of color have been aggressively targeted by Big Tobacco’s lies and deadly products—this must end.

“Lives are at stake. We know that Big Tobacco will concoct any scheme to continue selling its poison, and it’s a shame that an Administration committed to ending cancer as we know it has retreated from this critical public health strategy. Not to mention the Administration’s ongoing failure to regulate the e-cigarette marketplace, allowing Big Tobacco to continue preying on children. I urge them to revisit this unacceptable delay and to do what is right to prevent needless cancer deaths.”

In January, Durbin joined U.S. Senator Jeff Merkley (D-OR), along with U.S. Senators Richard Blumenthal (D-CT), Edward J. Markey (D-MA), and Sherrod Brown (D-OH) and 22 Senators in a letter to the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) Director Shalanda Young, sounding their concerns about the Administration’s delay in finalizing proposed rules to end the sale of menthol flavor in cigarettes and all flavors in cigars. FDA announced the proposed rules in April 2022, but has been working on this issue for more than a decade without finalizing a rule.

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In December, Durbin delivered a speech on the Senate floor calling on the FDA and Biden Administration to swiftly implement a proposed public health regulation to prohibit the production and sale of menthol cigarettes and flavored cigars. Durbin spoke about his own family’s grief after losing his father to lung cancer, reiterating that a ban on menthol cigarettes could save an estimated 650,000 American lives from tobacco-related deaths and eliminate the racial disparity in lung cancer deaths between Black and White Americans. In his remarks, Durbin emphasized that communities of color bear the brunt of the addiction, disease, and death from menthol cigarettes as Big Tobacco has intentionally targeted Black Americans in advertising and marketing.

Rep. Robin Kelly Responds to FDA Abandoning Menthol Cigarette Ban

WASHINGTON, DC – Following reports that the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has dropped plans to ban menthol cigarettes, Congresswoman Robin Kelly (IL-02), chair of the Congressional Black Caucus Health Braintrust, issued the following statement:

“I am deeply disappointed that the FDA has chosen to abandon its established plan to ban menthol cigarettes. The FDA’s experts have been clear that menthol cigarettes are harmful to public health. This is a commonsense plan which could have saved hundreds of thousands of lives.

“In 2019, approximately 85% of non-Hispanic Black or African American smokers used menthol cigarettes, compared to 30% of non-Hispanic white smokers. This is the direct result of a deliberate decision made decades ago by the tobacco industry to target Black Americans with marketing for menthol cigarettes. In the 1950s, fewer than 10% of Black smokers used menthol cigarettes. The increased use of menthols among Black American has contributed to the Black community disproportionately suffering from tobacco-related diseases such as heart disease, lung cancer and strokes.

“I remain committed to working with the Biden Administration to advance racial equity and address systemic disparities in public health. I will continue to work with the Biden-Harris Administration to curb the harmful impacts of tobacco on communities of color and ensure that health equity is at the center of federal public health policy.”

Congresswoman Kelly led the Congressional effort by the majority of the Congressional Black Caucus to ban menthol cigarettes.

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