American Heart Association NYC statement in response to proposed FDA rules for the regulation of menthol cigarettes and flavored cigars

NEW YORK, NY, April 28, 2022 — The Food & Drug Administration (FDA) today released proposed rules for the regulation of menthol cigarettes and all flavored cigars. We commend this science-based approach to reducing disease and death related to the use of combustible tobacco products because it will help significantly reduce youth initiation, increase the chances of smoking cessation among people who currently smoke, and address health disparities experienced by communities of color, people with low-incomes, and LGBTQ+ individuals, all of whom have been heavily targeted by the tobacco industry and are far more likely to use these tobacco products. We urge the agency to quickly issue final rules and remove these harmful products from the market.

The American Heart Association and our nationwide network of advocates will relentlessly work with the FDA to ensure the final rules are as strong and comprehensive as possible.  These proposed regulations are the next step in what will likely be a multi-year process of review, public comment, and revision. When the FDA issues final rules, we expect the tobacco industry will aggressively challenge the ban in court. This could significantly delay the actual implementation of the rules or possibly see them overturned altogether.

“In the face of certain industry opposition to any federal action on menthol cigarettes and flavored cigars, New York must move ahead to protect its citizens from these and other flavored tobacco products, which threaten public health,” said Rafael Ortiz, MD, president of the American Heart Association’s New York City board of directors; chief of neuro-endovascular surgery and interventional neuro-radiology, Lenox Hill Hospital; associate professor of neurosurgery, neurology and radiology, Hofstra Northwell School of Medicine. “New York City has always been a leader in the fight against tobacco use and we need to lead here again. According to a recent study from the NYC Department of Health and Mental Hygiene (DOHMH), if the sale of menthol tobacco products was banned now, they estimate that over the next two years 90,000 New Yorkers would quit smoking, the majority being Black and Latino adults, and 3,000 young New Yorkers will not start smoking, who would have otherwise.”

The American Heart Association commends the agency for taking decisive action to improve health equity by removing some of the tobacco industry’s most sinister tools from its toolbox. However, the New York City Council can do more to ensure that thousands of New Yorkers do not start smoking, and must introduce new legislation to restrict the sale of menthol tobacco, ensuring that only retailers are implicated with infractions and no enforcement action against individuals for possession or use of any tobacco product.