Letter to The New York Times responding to "Stuck in Purgatory" | Center on Addiction

Letter to The New York Times responding to "Stuck in Purgatory"

Letter to The New York Times responding to "Stuck in Purgatory"

July 09, 2013

Published Letter

Dear Editor:

Your July 1 editorial about the Obama administration’s leaving in regulatory “purgatory” a host of federal rules to protect the public doesn’t mention an important rule: banning menthol as a flavor in cigarettes.

Menthol is the most deadly tobacco flavoring. The Tobacco Control Act banned use of all flavorings in cigarettes except menthol, which was to be studied by the Tobacco Products Scientific Advisory Committee.

In March 2011, that committee urged the Food and Drug Administration to ban menthol cigarettes to benefit public health in the United States. More than two years later, the FDA has yet to act.

Because menthol reduces the harshness of smoking, menthol cigarettes are a potent starter product. Half of 12- to 17-year-old smokers and 80 percent of African-American smokers use menthol cigarettes.


More than 90 percent of adult smokers are hooked as teenagers. Menthol flavorings not only lure children to start smoking, but they also make it harder for menthol smokers to quit.

The White House should free the FDA to ban menthol flavoring in cigarettes to protect the health and save the lives of Americans, especially minority Americans. The European health ministers agreed last month to ban menthol cigarettes to curb youth smoking.


The writers are, respectively, former health, education and welfare secretary in the Carter administration and health and human services secretary in the George H. W. Bush administration.


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