By Jim Knox
The U.S. Supreme Court announced this week that it will not hear R.J. Reynold’s challenge to a Los Angeles County law ending the sale of menthol cigarettes and all other flavored tobacco products. This decision to leave the law intact is a major victory for public health as the statute helps reduce smoking and limits Big Tobacco’s predatory practices to addict Black, LGBTQ+ and limited-income communities.
It is largely because of the tobacco industry’s pernicious marketing of menthol that Black Americans who smoke have a harder time quitting and die at higher rates from tobacco-related diseases. Heart disease, stroke, diabetes and cancer are the leading causes of death among Latinos, all of which can be caused by smoking.
Over 2.5 million U.S. middle and high school students use e-cigarettes, with 81% of kids who have ever tried tobacco starting with a flavored product. The epidemic rates of youth tobacco use we see across the country are the industry’s intended result and tactic for permanence.
The Supreme Court’s decision to turn away the tobacco industry is a huge win for cancer advocates as smoking is now linked to at least 12 types of cancers, including lung, liver and colorectal cancers. The American Cancer Society Cancer Action Network (ACS CAN), the nation’s leading cancer patient advocacy organization, supports ending the sale of menthol cigarettes and all other flavored tobacco products as a critical step to reduce tobacco use and address health disparities.
Moreover, this week’s action preserves the authority of cities, counties and states to end the sale of menthol cigarettes and all other flavored tobacco products. Last December, the Supreme Court also rejected Big Tobacco’s desperate and deplorable attempt to stop a California state law that will help save lives by ending the sale of menthol cigarettes and most other flavored tobacco products from being implemented. This law took effect on December, 21st.
We know this fight is far from over. You can expect the tobacco industry will resort to old and new tricks to keep profiting at the expense of the health of our communities. You can also count on public health advocates persisting to implement and defend policies that protect communities from the scourges of tobacco use and save lives from cancer caused by tobacco use.
We have once again prevailed over the tobacco industry in the legislature, on the ballot, and now in the courts; and are determined to extend this winning streak.
Jim Knox is the Managing Director for the American Cancer Society Cancer Action Network (ACS CAN), which is the nonprofit, nonpartisan advocacy affiliate of the American Cancer Society.