RALEIGH (WTVD) -- North Carolina Attorney General Josh Stein is calling on the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to ban menthol cigarettes.
Stein said the ban would benefit public health, decrease youth smoking and help mitigate harm to communities of color.
"Menthol cigarettes are designed to be easier to smoke," said Attorney General Josh Stein. "That means they make it easier to get hooked. What's more, they're marketed in ways that disproportionately harm young people and people of color. I urge the FDA to ban menthol cigarettes and help us prevent another generation of North Carolinians from become addicted to nicotine and suffering the consequences in years to come."
In a letter to the FDA, Attorney General Stein and a bipartisan coalition of 23 attorneys argue such a prohibition would save thousands of lives. Despite an overall decline in non-menthol smoking, the prevalence of menthol smoking has remained constant in recent years. The attorneys general said menthol cigarettes remain a barrier to smoking cessation and the reduction of smoking-related health conditions.
The full letter can be read here.
In the letter, the attorneys general highlight the FDA's own data on the addictiveness of menthol cigarettes. Menthol in cigarettes disguises harsh flavor, making it attractive for beginners who experiment with cigarettes and ultimately become addicted. The sensory effects and flavor of menthol can make cigarettes more addictive and menthol smokers are less likely to successfully quit than non-menthol smokers.
In 2019, an estimated 46.7 percent of middle and high school-aged smokers used menthol cigarettes, but menthol cigarette smoking is even higher among African American youth. Data also shows that 89 percent of all African American smokers smoke menthol cigarettes compared to 26 percent of white smokers.
Attorney General Stein filed the first state lawsuit against e-cigarette manufacturer Juul in May 2019 for aggressively marketing their products to young people and misrepresenting the dangers of the nicotine in e-cigarettes. Stein also filed lawsuits against eight additional e-cigarette companies in August 2019 for targeting children and lax age verification processes. The courts barred most of these companies from selling any e-cigarette products in North Carolina for the duration of the lawsuits.
Attorney General Stein was joined in sending Friday's letter by the Attorneys General of Connecticut, Delaware, the District of Columbia, Hawaii, Idaho, Illinois, Iowa, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Minnesota, Nebraska, New Mexico, New York, Nevada, the Northern Mariana Islands, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Puerto Rico, Vermont, Washington and Wisconsin.