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A Ban on Menthol Products that Accelerate Tobacco Addiction Among African American Youth

WHEREAS, The NAACP seeks to stop cigarette companies' use of menthol products to deliberately target and accelerate tobacco addiction among African-American youth.  A ban on menthol products would save millions of lives; and

WHEREAS, Cigarette companies use menthol-flavored tobacco products which, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), create "a cooling sensation in the throat and airways when the user inhales making cigarette smoke feel less harsh on the user," to appeal to youth, with tastes that are available in various flavors; and

WHEREAS, Historically, according to the CDC, cigarette companies have disproportionately marketed menthol products in predominantly Black communities by using culturally tailored advertising images and messages. (ii)  According to the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), research indicates that by giving free samples, offering discounts and coupons, sponsoring urban music events, and placing menthol advisements in magazines with primarily Black readers, tobacco companies promote menthol product sales to African Americans; (iii); and

WHEREAS, According to the CDC, of African American adult smokers, 85% use menthol products, which is three times the rate of menthol use among White adult smokers. (iv) The trend continues with African American youth, with the 2020 National Youth Tobacco Survey, conducted by the federal government, finding that 6.5 percent of Black students in high school and middle school used menthol products compared with 2.5 percent who used non-menthol products (v); and

WHEREAS, According to the CDC, research shows that menthol products are potentially more addictive than and allow the body to absorb harmful chemicals more easily than traditional, nonĀ­menthol tobacco products, ultimately posing a greater health risk than traditional tobacco products (vi); and

WHEREAS, In 2021, the Biden administration announced its intention to ban menthol products shortly after anti-tobacco and public health organizations sued the FDA for not responding to a citizen petition for a menthol cigarette ban vii; and

WHEREAS, The CDC has reported that African American smokers die of "heart attacks, strokes and other causes linked to tobacco use at higher rates than White smokers do," but African Americans actually smoke less. (x) This fact requires, too, that when seeking to ban the use of menthol products because of its disproportionately adverse effect on African American people, disparities in overall healthcare must be addressed as well; and 

WHEREAS, Menthol ban efforts have been met with pushback from some political and civil rights leaders who warn that criminalizing the use of menthol tobacco products could be discriminatory given its popularity among African Americans, and encourage negative interactions between African Americans and police. (xi) Menthol ban supporters counter that the FDA's proposed legislation would target manufacturers, wholesalers, and retailers and, thus, won't penalize consumers (xii); and

WHEREAS, This resolution reaffirms and builds upon the (2016), Support State and Local Restrictions on the Sale of Flavored Tobacco Products; and

WHEREAS, Any policing consequences that a ban on menthol tobacco products conceivably could have on Black communities will be addressed through criminal justice safeguards for potential smokers' protection.

THEREFORE, BE IT RESOLVED, that the NAACP will actively continue its support for an FDA regulation banning menthol tobacco products.

BE IT FINALLY RESOLVED that the NAACP calls on organizations and civil rights leaders and political candidates of all races, but especially African Americans, to refuse to accept donations from tobacco companies that are attempting to undermine the proposed FDA regulation.