97 Organizations Call on UN Human Rights Committee to Address Menthol Tobacco

Quezon City, Philippines: Today, the Southeast Asia Tobacco Control Alliance (SEATCA) and 96 organizations from around the world submitted a report to the Committee on the Elimination of all forms of Racial Discrimination (CERD), an international human rights body made up of independent experts responsible for monitoring the implementation of the International Convention of the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination (ICERD). The report highlights the ongoing epidemic of harms caused by menthol cigarettes in the United States but is also relevant in ASEAN markets, such as Indonesia, Philippines, Singapore, Thailand, and Vietnam. Menthol makes it easier to start smoking and harder to quit, resulting in a higher death toll for consumers targeted with menthol cigarettes.

The United States is a party to the ICERD; however, the United States is almost four years past due to submit its report to this important human rights treaty aimed at reducing racial inequities. Therefore, our organizations also sent a letter calling on the US State Department to expedite its report to CERD.

“The tobacco industry has a long history of using calculated and targeted marketing to influence certain groups of people to use and patronize its products. At a time when the world is actively addressing racial and health inequalities, we are calling out the tobacco industry for not only specifically targeting ASEAN communities to use menthol cigarettes but also for exploiting the poor, women, and youth in ASEAN and around the world,” highlighted Dr. Ulysses Dorotheo, Executive Director of SEATCA.

ICERD is legally binding for member State Parties (including the US and most ASEAN countries); each Party has the obligation to uphold and implement all provisions of the Convention, which include provisions on health, namely that everyone, regardless of race, color, origin, etc., has a right to public health.

Menthol, specifically the targeted advertising of menthol cigarettes, is an obstacle to the right to health of African Americans. This report encourages the ICERD committee to demand that the US government take action to protect African Americans from the harms of menthol.

“By continuing to allow the sale of menthol cigarettes, the United States is failing to protect the health of African Americans,” said ASH Executive Director Laurent Huber. “It is the government’s duty to protect its citizens’ human rights. The CERD committee can and should implore the US government to fulfill that duty by putting an end to the sale of menthol cigarettes.”

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Contact Information:
Val Bugnot, Media and Communications Officer, SEATCA
Email: val@seatca.org

About SEATCA
SEATCA is a multi-sectoral non-governmental alliance promoting health and saving lives by assisting ASEAN countries to accelerate and effectively implement the tobacco control measures contained in the WHO FCTC. Acknowledged by governments, academic institutions, and civil society for its advancement of tobacco control in Southeast Asia, the WHO bestowed on SEATCA the World No Tobacco Day Award in 2004 and the WHO Director-General’s Special Recognition Award in 2014.