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Congressmen Don Davis and David Rouzer — NC-07 — members of the U.S. House Committee on Agriculture sent a letter to President Joe Biden today expressing concern about the Food and Drug Administration’s proposed rule to ban menthol cigarettes and flavored cigars and its impact on working families and farmers in North Carolina.

"My path of working in the tobacco fields of eastern North Carolina to walking the halls of Congress was only made possible by the employment opportunities I had as a young child,” said Davis. “Not only would the proposed ban on menthol cigarettes increase the presence of illicit tobacco products on the market, it would also put eastern North Carolinians out of work without any viable employment alternatives. I urge the administration to thoroughly consider the significant cultural, economic, and social effects a ban on menthol cigarettes and flavored cigars could have on the well-being of North Carolina before fully implementing such a measure.”

(The full letter can be found at this link)

Rouzer said, “This is a clear attack on North Carolina's farm families and thousands of hardworking residents. The tobacco industry has brought generations out of poverty, sent children to college, and solidified North Carolina as the epicenter of a global enterprise. President Biden and his administration must understand the immense impact this ban would have on the communities across our state who have relied upon tobacco production to support their livelihoods and weigh such an impact before any further action.” 

In April the FDA announced proposed product standards to prohibit menthol as a characterizing flavor in cigarettes and prohibit all characterizing flavors other than tobacco in cigars. 

The agency said these actions have the potential to significantly reduce disease and death from combusted tobacco product use, the leading cause of preventable death in the U.S., by reducing youth experimentation and addiction, and increasing the number of smokers that quit. 

“The proposed rules would help prevent children from becoming the next generation of smokers and help adult smokers quit,” said Health and Human Services Secretary Xavier Becerra at the time. “Additionally, the proposed rules represent an important step to advance health equity by significantly reducing tobacco-related health disparities.” 

The FDA said the proposed product standards are based on clear science and evidence establishing the addictiveness and harm of these products and build on the Family Smoking Prevention and Tobacco Control Act, which prohibited all characterizing flavors other than tobacco and menthol in cigarettes in 2009. 

They are also a critical piece of the administration’s reignited Cancer Moonshot to reduce the death rate from cancer by at least 50 percent over the next 25 years; tobacco use is a leading cause of cancer and death from cancer, and approximately 30 percent of all cancer deaths in the United States are caused by smoking.

A portion of the Davis-Rouzer letter says: “The menthol cigarette industry is responsible for 27,000 jobs in North Carolina alone. The production and sale of menthol cigarettes account for over 6,000 of those jobs, with more than 2,000 in manufacturing. Each one of these jobs represents the opportunity to buy a home, send a child to college, and provide a thriving life for their family. 

“If OMB were to approve the FDA’s proposed final rule banning the sale of menthol cigarettes, each one of those jobs and the economic opportunity they bring would be lost. Throughout the state, this loss would mirror the struggle we experienced during the mass exodus of the textile and furniture industries over the past three decades.”