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Ann Arbor, MI- At their June meeting, the Washtenaw County Board of Commissioners passed a resolution urging the Michigan Legislature to protect the health and well-being of its residents. The resolution urges the Michigan Legislature to end the sale of flavored tobacco products, including menthol products, and asks them to repeal local preemption laws that prohibit municipalities to regulate tobacco control on the local level.
The resolution was first passed by the Washtenaw County Board of Health and focuses on the urgent need to address the alarming rise in tobacco use among teens and young adults, as well as the disproportionate harm caused by menthol and flavored products within minority communities.
"The evidence is clear- flavored tobacco is what leads young people to pick up tobacco products and unfortunately, incidences are much more common for black and Latinx youth.” Commissioner Katie Scott, County Commissioner District 9, Nurse. “Flavored tobacco is the entry point into smoking for many communities, and it contributes to higher rates of heart disease and lung disease in these groups over time. As a public health measure, prohibiting the sale of flavored tobacco products and menthol is one way that we can try to reduce the health disparities."
Scientific evidence established the disproportionate harms of flavorings years ago. Most community members support restrictions on flavorings; 77% of Washtenaw County residents support ending the sale of flavored tobacco products, including menthol cigarettes. Yet sales and marketing have continued: “It has been more than a decade since the FDA’s Tobacco Products Scientific Advisory Committee concluded that “Removal of menthol cigarettes from the marketplace would benefit public health in the United States,” especially among Black Americans. All other flavors are already prohibited in cigarettes” (Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids, 2023).
“We have an obligation to stop protecting tobacco industry profits and start prioritizing health.” Justin D. Hodge, Chair of the Board, District 5. "Tobacco use is a health equity issue. Tobacco companies purposefully advertise to communities of color and the LGBTQ community, which can lead to a lifetime of addiction and chronic health issues. An alarming 21% of Michigan teens report using e-cigarettes, we must do what we can to reduce youth tobacco use. The time is now for Michigan to change these startling trends and address these serious health equity issues.”
The Washtenaw County Health Department has many great resources available for those interested in quitting tobacco or nicotine or those interested in learning more about health equity disparities. You can find more information about their work to prevent and reduce tobacco use here: Washtenaw County Board of Health Urges Preventing and Reducing Tobacco Use.