UN Human Rights Body Should Recommend the U.S. Remove Menthol From All Tobacco Products

UN Human Rights Body Should Recommend the U.S. Remove Menthol From All Tobacco Products

(New York, August 9, 2022)STOP, a tobacco industry watchdog, joins 120 organizations calling on the international human rights body, the Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination (CERD), to recommend to the United States (U.S.) that it should act to protect all Americans from tobacco, particularly menthol products.

Sandra Mullin, Senior Vice President, Vital Strategies, a partner in STOP, said: “Last year, we welcomed the U.S. Food and Drug Administration’s decision to ban menthol in combustible tobacco products. However, we also cautioned that tobacco interests were likely to try to weaken, delay or even eliminate the ban. Since then, investigative journalists have exposed evidence of significant industry-linked lobbying.

“The FDA needs to reject industry pressure and an intervention from CERD could help boost its resolve. For far too long, regulatory agencies failed to act decisively to prevent tobacco companies from targeting kids and Black Americans, in particular, with flavored products. Every day a menthol ban is not implemented will result in more people getting hooked. It’s time for change.”

CERD monitors implementation of the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination by countries like the U.S. that have ratified the treaty. The U.S. is due to report on its progress at a CERD meeting on August 11 and 12, 2022. A report submitted to CERD, led by Action on Smoking and Health (ASH), the African American Tobacco Control Leadership Council (AATCLC), and the DC Tobacco-Free Coalition, asserts that tobacco violates various human rights, including the right to health, and that the tobacco industry’s predatory targeting of Black Americans with menthol-flavored products is a human rights issue.

Nearly nine in 10 (88.5%) Black Americans who smoke use menthol cigarettes—double the proportion of other ethnic groups. Studies have shown that predominantly Black communities across the U.S. have more advertising and lower prices for menthol cigarettes. In Washington, DC specifically, researchers found that stores in predominantly Black neighborhoods were up to 10 times more likely to display tobacco advertisements inside and outside than retailers in areas with fewer Black residents.

The report’s recommendations include calling on the U.S. to ratify the global health treaty, the World Health Organization Framework Convention on Tobacco Control, and to act quickly to implement a comprehensive ban on menthol in tobacco products.

STOP has produced a brief on the tobacco industry’s use and marketing of menthol and other flavors in tobacco products, in the U.S. and around the world. Adding flavors, including menthol, to tobacco products makes them more appealing to young users and harder to quit. Apart from the U.S., young people in low- and middle-income countries, where nearly 80% of the world’s smokers live, are being targeted with new, enticing flavors and gimmicks such as flavor capsules.

Please contact the STOP press office for more information or to speak to a STOP spokesperson.

About STOP (Stopping Tobacco Organizations and Products)

STOP is a global tobacco industry watchdog whose mission is to expose the tobacco industry strategies and tactics that undermine public health. STOP is funded by Bloomberg Philanthropies and comprised of a partnership among The Tobacco Control Research Group at the University of Bath, The Global Center for Good Governance in Tobacco Control (GGTC), the International Union Against Tuberculosis and Lung Disease (The Union) and Vital Strategies. For more information, visit exposetobacco.org.