Rev. Al Sharpton Rallies Against FDA Ban on Menthol Cigarettes

    The Reverend Al Sharpton introduces honorees during the NAN (National Action Network) Keepers Of The Dream Awards at the Sheraton Times Square on April 03, 2019, in New York City. (Getty Images North America)

    *The Rev. Al Sharpton has long pushed back against the FDA’s proposed plan to ban sales of menthol-flavored cigarettes.

    Meanwhile, the president of the N.A.A.C.P., Derrick Johnson, called the ban a “win for justice.”

    “These products have killed our children, our parents, our brothers, sisters, and livelihoods,” Johnson said previously, according to the New York Times. “After fighting against deadly menthol products for decades, today is a victory for Black America.”

    Menthol cigarettes are heavily marketed to Black people. Per the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, African-American men have the highest lung cancer rates in the country.

    Public health experts say a majority of Black smokers use menthol products, and Newport is a popular brand among this demographic. Newport is owned and manufactured by R. J. Reynolds, a sponsor of NAN. According to Moguldom, citing a Politico report, Sharpton has denied that Reynolds pays NAN for its position on menthol cigarettes.

    Sharpton believes the ban could create a black market and lead to deadly clashes with police, as in the case of Eric Garner.

    Sharpton argued against the ban in a letter following Garner’s death to the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) commissioner, Moguldom reports. 

    “Menthol prohibitions will create illicit markets and more police interactions, especially in minority communities,” NAN wrote in a June 2022 letter to former Food and Drug Administration (FDA) Commissioner Robert Califf, The New York Post reported. “For example, Eric Garner was a Black killed by the NYPD for selling loose, untaxed cigarettes.”

    The letter continued, “NAN is uniquely qualified to offer a valuable civil rights perspective on our concerns and the unintended consequences.

    According to the CDC, about 18.5 million Americans smoke mental cigarettes. 

    According to Moguldom, the FDA sent its “final proposal for the menthol cigarette ban to the White House’s Office of Management and Budget (OMB) for review, indicating that the ban is nearing approval,” the outlet writes.

    READ MORE: Al Sharpton Calls on McDonald’s CEO to Address Racial Discrimination

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