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American Medical Association (AMA) joins lawsuit against FDA


The American Medical Association (AMA) today joined the African American Tobacco Control Leadership Council (AATCLC) and Action on Smoking and Health (ASH) as co-plaintiffs in a lawsuit against the Food and Drug Administration (FDA). The parties are represented by Pollock Cohen, LLP. The complaint, initially filed on June 17, 2020, requests that the court compel the FDA to fulfill its mandate to take action on FDA’s own conclusions that it would benefit the public health to add menthol to the list of prohibited characterizing flavors and therefore ban it from sale. AMA’s participation further strengthens this case, bringing us one step closer to protecting all mentholated tobacco users from the deadly product.

“For generations, tobacco companies have promoted menthol cigarettes to the African American community, preying especially on African American youth,” said AMA President Susan R. Bailey, M.D. “The results are clear and grim; although African Americans usually smoke fewer cigarettes and start smoking at an older age, they are more likely than Whites to die from smoking-related diseases like heart disease and stroke. The American Medical Association has longstanding policies supporting banning menthol in combustible tobacco products and calling for the FDA to prohibit the use of flavoring agents in all tobacco products. We are proud to join AATCLC and ASH in this effort to compel FDA to meet its mandate and take action to ban menthol-flavored tobacco products. This action is long, long overdue.”

In 2009, Congress passed—and President Obama signed into law—the Family Smoking Prevention and Tobacco Control Act. The act created a flavor ban in cigarettes but excluded menthol, subject to further research, creating a massive gap in protection for African Americans. In 2011, the FDA’s Advisory Committee concluded that the “Removal of menthol cigarettes from the marketplace would benefit public health in the United States.”

Despite this conclusion, and several statements of support in the interim, the FDA has not begun the rulemaking process of removing menthol from combustible cigarettes. The plaintiffs are asking the court to direct the FDA to take action.

“The FDA has been derelict in their duties. Menthol flavored tobacco products should have been removed from the marketplace a decade ago when all the other flavors were removed,” said Dr. Phillip Gardiner, founding member and co-chair of the AATCLC. “Let’s be clear: menthol cigarettes and flavored little cigars have been and are the main vectors for death and disease into our community. The COVID-19 pandemic has just thrown a spotlight on the health disparities and unequal treatment faced by poor colored communities for hundreds of years in the United States. At this time nothing could be more helpful in saving Black Lives and ensuring that Black Lives Matter than getting the FDA to prohibit sale of menthol cigarettes and flavored little cigars.”

Tobacco is the leading cause of preventable death worldwide, smoking-related illnesses are the leading causes of death in the African American community, and 85 percent of African American smokers smoke menthol cigarettes.

“Menthol cigarettes have killed thousands of Americans, particularly African Americans, in the time the FDA has delayed action. This is more than a policy oversight; these are people’s lives. The FDA needs to take immediate action to ban menthol and protect people from these deadly products,” said Kelsey Romeo-Stuppy, Managing Attorney at ASH.

About the American Medical Association

The American Medical Association is the physicians’ powerful ally in patient care. As the only medical association that convenes 190+ state and specialty medical societies and other critical stakeholders, the AMA represents physicians with a unified voice to all key players in health care.  The AMA leverages its strength by removing the obstacles that interfere with patient care, leading the charge to prevent chronic disease and confront public health crises and, driving the future of medicine to tackle the biggest challenges in health care.

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