CDC relaunches anti-smoking ad campaign with focus on menthol

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The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) on Monday relaunched an anti-smoking ad campaign, with a particular focus on the dangers of menthol cigarettes.  

Many of this year’s ads shown as part of the “Tips From Former Smokers” campaign include messaging about the harms of menthol cigarettes. 

The “Tips” campaign initially ran from 2012-18 and features messages from people living with serious long-term health effects from smoking and secondhand smoke exposure. CDC credits it with helping 1 million people successfully quit smoking. 

Scientists have long known that menthol in cigarettes can make them more addictive. Menthol creates a cooling sensation in the throat and airways, making the smoke feel less harsh and easier to inhale. 

Public health experts, including the CDC, say banning the sale of menthol cigarettes could save hundreds of thousands of lives, particularly among Black smokers. An estimated 85 percent of Black smokers use menthol cigarettes, according to federal statistics.  

Congress banned flavored cigarettes as part of the 2009 law giving the Food and Drug Administration authority to regulate tobacco products, but a loophole exempted menthol. 

The Biden administration first proposed a ban on menthol cigarette sales in 2022. The administration was set to publish a final rule in December, but then quietly delayed it until at least March after critics argued the ban would unfairly target Black smokers. 

Anti-tobacco advocates are growing increasingly concerned that a divided White House will bow to political pressure from the tobacco industry and scrap the plan completely, amid concerns of a backlash among Black voters ahead of the 2024 election.  

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