By The ETR Team | May 26, 2022
Each year on May 31st, we join other public health leaders and advocates across the globe in recognizing World No Tobacco Day. This year, our team is reflecting on the commercial tobacco industry’s impact on the health and well-being of people across the nation. ETR envisions a world where all people have the information, skills, and opportunities to lead healthy lives. We are driven by our mission to improve health and increase opportunities for youth, families, and communities.
Commercial tobacco was introduced in the United States in the early 19th century.1 The industry has used impactful marketing techniques such as promoting products with influential and trusted figures, including musicians, doctors, and athletes. Additionally, the industry has done everything within its power to create products that are easier to start and more difficult to quit. The result is generation after generation of commercial tobacco users, which disproportionately affects racial and ethnic minority groups, youth and young adults, folks who are low income, and those who live with mental health challenges and in rural communities.2
The Family Smoking Prevention and Tobacco Control Act of 2009 was a major step in the fight against the commercial tobacco industry. This legislation gave the Food & Drug Administration (FDA) the authority to regulate the manufacturing, distribution, and marketing of tobacco products.3 Unfortunately, the language used in the Act included an exemption for the menthol flavor. Menthol, a chemical compound, reduces the harshness of cigarette smoke due to its characteristic cooling effects on the mouth and throat.4,5 It also suppresses the coughing reflex, which makes inhaling smoke from cigarettes more tolerable.6 In 2018, 39.9% of cigarette users smoked menthol products.7 The language within the Act also left space for the industry to develop new products such as electronic cigarette (e-cigarette) devices and associated flavor options. In 2018, an estimated 8.1 million U.S. adults were current e-cigarette users.8 In 2021, a study estimated that more than 2 million U.S. middle and high school students are currently using e-cigarettes.9
The continuation of the commercial tobacco use epidemic brings to light the importance of continuing our work. ETR has partnered with organizations, governmental entities, and individuals in the state of California and nationally to provide resources and services that improve the health of youth, adults, and communities impacted by tobacco. We offer evidence- and science-based prevention programs that target tobacco prevention and give youth skills to avoid drug use and resist pressure. Our award-winning resources offer guidance and techniques that help people evaluate their tobacco use while encouraging them to create a plan to quit. The fight against commercial tobacco is still not finished, and ETR will provide support until the very end.
4. Tobacco Products Scientific Advisory Committee. Menthol Cigarettes and Public Health: Review of the Scientific Evidence and Recommendations. Rockville, MD: Center for Tobacco Products, Food and Drug Administration;2011.
5. Yerger VB, McCandless PM. Menthol sensory qualities and smoking topography: a review of tobacco industry documents. Tobacco Control. 2011;20 Suppl 2:ii37-43.
6. Millqvist E, Ternesten-Hasseus E, Bende M. Inhalation of menthol reduces capsaicin cough sensitivity and influences inspiratory flows in chronic cough. Respiratory Medicine. 2013;107(3):433-438.
7. Delnevo CD, Ganz O, Goodwin RD. Banning menthol cigarettes: a social justice issue long overdue. In. Vol 22: Oxford University Press US; 2020:1673-1675.
9. Park-Lee E, Ren C, Sawdey MD, et al. Notes from the Field: E-Cigarette Use Among Middle and High School Students — National Youth Tobacco Survey, United States, 2021. MMWR Morb Mortal Wkly Rep 2021;70:1387–1389. DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.15585/mmwr.mm7039a4.