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White House adviser: Menthol ban would be game-changer for public health

INDIANAPOLIS (WISH) — The U.S. Food and Drug Administration has been pushing for over a decade to prohibit menthol cigarette sales with limited success.

But now, they are closer than ever. If enforced, epidemiologists predict over 1 million Americans will quit smoking with some populations benefiting more than others.  

News 8 spoke with Dr. Julie Morita, executive vice president at the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation and COVID-19 adviser to President Joe Biden. Morita explains how certain groups have been deliberately targeted by the tobacco industry.

“The advertising campaigns that the tobacco companies have done really look to get our young people, our Black and Hispanic communities hooked on these products by placing their advertisements in their communities, by putting ads in their magazines, by putting advertisements at art and musical festivals where they can actually access the products for free.”

Evidence shows disadvantaged, Black Americans are disproportionately harmed by menthol products. Nearly 85%of non-Hispanic Black smokers smoke menthol cigarettes. This is compared to 30% of non-Hispanic white smokers. 

Morita says if implemented the ban will be a game-changer from a public health perspective. It would also save lives and billions of dollars in health care costs.