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Former Health Officials Urge Tobacco Companies to Stop Selling Menthol Cigarettes

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A group of former top health officials is urging tobacco companies to stop marketing and selling menthol cigarettes. The group includes all of the living former U.S. Secretaries of Health, Surgeons General, and Directors of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

The group, called the Citizens’ Commission to Protect the Truth, is also calling on the Obama Administration to allow the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to ban menthol flavoring in cigarettes.

Former Secretary of Health, Education, and Welfare Joseph A. Califano, Jr. and former Secretary of Health and Human Services, Louis W. Sullivan, MD, said banning menthol cigarettes is “imperative to avoid encouraging children and teens to start and continue smoking and to avoid the devastating impact of menthol cigarettes on the African-American community.”

The group called menthol “the spoonful of sugar that makes the deadly medicine these companies are selling go down.” They said there is overwhelming evidence that menthol disguises the harsh taste of tobacco, and makes it more difficult to quit smoking. They added tobacco companies aggressively market menthol cigarettes to African Americans, which has led to smoking-related deaths and diseases including cancer, heart disease, and lung diseases such as emphysema.

In November, the attorneys general of 24 states urged the FDA to ban the sale of menthol cigarettes. In a letter to the FDA, the attorneys general said “there are numerous law enforcement tools that can be used to combat production or importation of unlawful tobacco products. Moreover, the quantity of menthol cigarettes that could be made available on the black market would be far less than the quantity that will be available if menthol remains legal. Therefore, a ban on menthol would dramatically decrease public access to menthol cigarettes.”

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