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FDA wants to remove menthol as a "characterizing flavor." We say get rid of menthol altogether!

FDA extends deadline for public comment on proposed menthol rule

The Food and Drug Administration is proposing a tobacco product standard that would prohibit menthol as a "characterizing flavor" in cigarettes. It is critical that the FDA hears from us on how they can finalize a rule that will best save Black lives.

Here are six points we think you should include in your public comment to the FDA.

  1. Menthol needs to be removed altogether, not just as a "characterizing flavor."
  2. Menthol cigarettes are killing Black people more than car accidents, AIDS, suicides, gun violence and police-induced murders combined! We need to take these products off the market and fully fund cessation efforts in our communities. 
  3. The tobacco industry has preyed upon the Black Community for decades leading to much higher rates of tobacco use.
  4. The proposed rule would have potential effects on commercial tobacco initiation, nicotine dependence, and cessation, which would disproportionately improve the health of Black Americans and all Americans. 
  5. The FDA has had the authority to regulate menthol cigarettes for more than a decade. Action can't wait any longer!
  6. The FDA should ban all flavor additives.

Your voice matters! Please submit your comment online by August 2.



During the final week of June, the National Conference on Tobacco or Health (NCTOH) was held in New Orleans. Over 2,500 public health professionals, advocates, and community leaders from across the country came together to learn, strategize and commit to making communities across our country healthier. 

At this year's conference, the fight to save Black lives by ending the sale of menthol-flavored cigarettes and flavored cigars was front and center. 

The day before the conference started, we hosted "The Case Against Menthol" ancillary lunch event to provide attendees with a briefing on our FDA lawsuit from the key plaintiffs in the case.

On day two of the conference, Carol and Dr. Val headlined the morning's opening plenary session "Consequences of a Match Made in Hell" alongside our friends David Mendez, PhD and Thuy Le, PhD. This session taught attendees about the leading research outlining the destructive impact the tobacco industry has had on Black Americans. 

On the final evening of the conference, we hosted our Menthol Soiree "Celebrating our Triumphs as we Prepare to Finish the Fight" with the Center for Black Health and Equity. 

The soiree gave us the opportunity to honor the Public Health Law Center, Christopher Leung, Joelle Lester, and Kendall Stagg for their tremendous contributions to the fight to save Black lives. 

Carol McGruder, Co-Chair of the AATCLC and Delmonte Jefferson, Executive Director of the Center for Black Health and Equity

Click here to see the gallery of photos from the soiree.

Click here to watch the full program from the soiree. 

The momentum from this year's NCTOH will carry through the second half of the year as we continue to make advancements on the federal, state, and local levels and then come together this September in Washington, DC for the 3rd National Menthol Conference


President Biden to mandate that cigarettes sold in the US have minimal or nonaddictive levels of nicotine

The Biden administration has announced that it intends to issue a rule requiring tobacco companies to reduce nicotine levels in cigarettes sold in our country to minimally or nonaddictive levels.

This move would make it possible for millions of Black Americans to more easily quit smoking saving hundreds of thousands of lives, but only if menthol as an additive is also completely removed from all tobacco products.

"The Biden Administration recently announced a mandate for tobacco manufacturers to lower the amount of nicotine to “non-addictive” level. Tobacco industry in-house research documented the role menthol plays in maintaining the addictiveness of very low nicotine products," explained Dr. Valerie Yerger, Founding Member of the African American Tobacco Control Leadership Council (AATCLC). "These industry studies suggest that no lowering of nicotine will meet a “non-addictive” level if menthol as an additive is present in a tobacco product."

“Reducing nicotine levels in cigarettes to minimally or non-addictive levels would be a landmark achievement to save Black lives,” proclaimed Carol McGruder, Co-Chair of the African American Tobacco Control Leadership Council (AATCLC). “Most Black smokers want to quit and this move will make it possible for millions to do so.”

Click here to read our full statement.

Click here for research on this issue.

Lawsuit Against the FDA Dismissed in Light of Menthol Rulemaking Process

We are pleased to announce that we are dismissing our lawsuit against the United States Food and Drug Administration (FDA). A rulemaking process to ban menthol as a characterizing flavor is in progress, and we are grateful to be able to declare victory in this case.

The plaintiffs in the lawsuit against the FDA – Action on Smoking and Health (ASH), African American Tobacco Control Leadership Council (AATCLC), the American Medical Association (AMA), and the National Medical Association (NMA) – represented by the legal team at Pollock Cohen LLP, are proud to have spurred on this action. The lawsuit followed the 2013 Citizen’s Petition which called on the FDA to prohibit menthol as a "characterizing flavor" in cigarettes.

“As African American physicians, we are thrilled with the FDA’s proposed rule to ban menthol in cigarettes and flavored cigars as a remedy to settle our lawsuit,” said Dr. Rachel Villanueva, President of the National Medical Association. “This proposed rule will save lives and improve health within Black communities. This would not have been possible without the leadership and assistance of our co-plaintiffs and attorneys, whom we wish to sincerely thank.”

Click here to read our full statement.


​​Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti signs flavored tobacco ban ordinance into law

On June 13, after years of advocacy from the AATCLC and our coalition partners, Mayor Garcetti signed the flavored tobacco ban ordinance into law. The ordinance was unanimously approved on June 1 by the Los Angeles City Council and goes into effect on January 1, 2023.

Los Angeles is now the largest city in the United States to ban the sale of flavored tobacco products including menthol flavored products. 

San Diego Mayor Todd Garcia signs ordinance to restrict the sale of flavored tobacco products into law

On June 2, San Diego Mayor Garcia signed the ordinance to end the sale of flavored tobacco products including menthol flavored products in the city.

In May, the City Council voted 7-2 to pass the Stop Adolescent Addiction to Flavored E-Cigarettes Act.

San Diego's action comes after months of advocacy by the AATCLC and our coalition partners. The ordinance will take effect on January 1, 2023.


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Same Game, Different Smokers Exhibit Launches at the MUZEO Museum and Cultural Center

On Thursday, July 7, the MUZEO Museum and Cultural Center opened Same Game, Different Smokers to the public. The groundbreaking exhibit is an exploration of the troubling relationship the tobacco industry has had with the Black Community over the last 400+ years. 

The exhibit consists of over 30 panels and is accompanied by a K-12 curriculum that supports teachers in preparing their classes to visit the exhibit and allows young viewers to connect with the information in various ways.

Tobacco and Social Injustice Spoken Word Contest

On June 16, we hosted a spoken word contest at Busboys and Poets in Washington, DC. 

A dozen poets shared powerful stories about how tobacco has impacted their families and communities.

Click here to see photos from the event. 

AATCLC Spokesperson Training for California Tobacco Control Advocates

On June 22, we hosted a Spokesperson Training for California tobacco control advocates. Participants learned interview techniques, message delivery best practices, and strategies to handle sensitive scenarios.

Click here to watch full recap of the program. 

AATCLC on the We Can Do This! Podcast

On this episode of “We Can Do This!” host Sally Greenberg sits down with members of the African American Tobacco Control Leadership Council, the country’s leading public health education and advocacy organization taking on Big Tobacco to save Black lives. Dr. Phil Gardiner, Carol McGruder and Charles Debnam break down the FDA’s proposed move to ban menthol cigarettes, how Big Tobacco has aggressively targeted African American communities and eliminating the number one culprit of preventable deaths for Black people in America.

Click here to listen. 

AATCLC and Robert Wood Johnson Foundation Quantum Leap Launch Event

Missed our Quantum Leap Launch Event?

Watch the full program and learn how you can take part in this exciting new initiative from AATCLC and the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation.

Watch the full program here.