In a huge victory for public health, San Francisco voters took a stand against Big Tobacco, approving Proposition E, which prohibits local tobacco retailers from selling flavored tobacco products, including menthol, despite the industry’s best efforts to dissuade them. Restricting the sale of flavored tobacco products has the potential to save thousands of lives, especially since flavors play a significant role in drawing youth and young adults to tobacco products.

Last July, San Francisco historically became the first United States city to bar the sale of flavored tobacco products, including menthol. However, they were met with nearly a year of concerted efforts from Big Tobacco, working to repeal the ordinance by pouring nearly $12 million dollars into an opposition campaign backed by tobacco giant, R.J. Reynolds. This, along with efforts from Philip Morris International — the tobacco giant behind popular brand name cigarettes like Marlboro — highlight the duplicity of the tobacco industry as it calls for a “smoke-free world,” yet continues to oppose life-saving measures at every turn.

Truth Initiative® has repeatedly called on the Food and Drug Administration to outlaw flavored products, including menthol. While overall smoking rates have declined across the country, menthol cigarettes are slowing that progress. Youth and young adults use flavored tobacco products more than other age groups, and flavored products are often the first tobacco products youth and young adults ever use.

We’re thrilled by San Francisco’s decision to pass Proposition E. This decision goes to show that no matter how much money the industry spends, the public won’t be fooled by Big Tobacco. We hope the outcome in San Francisco gives the FDA the courage to do their job with menthol and flavor regulation on a national scale and give all Americans the protections from the harms of tobacco that the people of San Francisco now have.

Smoking remains the number one preventable cause of death and disease in the U.S., killing more than 540,000 people each year. The removal of menthol from cigarettes is likely to reduce youth smoking initiation, improve smoking cessation outcomes in adult smokers and, ultimately, save lives.

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