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21 Apr 2021 | 12:35

Pressure groups to lobby UN over menthol tobacco - report

(Sharecast News) - The US government is facing further pressure to ban menthol cigarettes after campaign groups lobbied the United Nations over the issue, it was reported on Wednesday. The Biden administration is understood to be discussing a ban on menthol cigarettes, as the minty taste is thought to mask the irritating effects of smoking and so appeal to new smokers and young people. Menthol cigarettes are already banned in the UK and European Union.

The US Food and Drug Administration, which regulates tobacco use, must respond to a petition to ban menthol cigarettes by the end of the month. The lawsuit was brought by the African American Tobacco Control Leadership Council (AATCLC).

But according to Bloomberg, nearly 100 lobby groups have ramped up the pressure by co-authoring a letter asking the UN to look at the adverse effects of menthol cigarettes on the health of African Americans as a human rights issue.

Signatories included the AATCLC, Action on Smoking and Health (Ash), the American Heart Association, National Council of Churches and the International Union Against Tuberculosis and Lung Disease, among others.

The letter notes: "The decades of well-documented racialised and predatory tobacco industry targeting of African Americans, specifically with menthol flavouring, is a human rights issue."

Bloomberg also quoted Kelsey Romeo-Stuppy, managing attorney of Ash, saying: "Menthol is a health and equality issue, and while we're talking about equality around Covid, now is the time to be talking about menthol." Ash also plans to send a separate letter the US State Department, arguing that it has an obligation to report to the UN on its progress to end racial discrimination."

The White House is also considering curbing nicotine levels in cigarettes, according to a report by the Wall Street Journal on Monday, which caused tobacco stocks to slide worldwide. Nicotine is not known to cause cancer, but it does make smoking more addictive.

As at 1400 GMT on Wednesday, US giant Altria Group was largely flat in pre-market trading, while London-listed British American Tobacco was up nearly 1% at 2,711.5p. Both suffered heavy losses earlier in the same week.
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