TCORS 2.0: Center for the Assessment of Tobacco Regulations (CAsToR)


“Targeted menthol cigarette ads helped lead to high Black usage. Should they be banned?”
David Mendez, PhD
POSTED: Mon Aug 08, 2022
David Mendez, a lead author of the Michigan study and a health management and policy professor at the university, said menthol cigarettes reduce the irritation and harshness of smoking through their smooth, minty flavor profile. Because the cigarette user does not cough or feel the less healthy aspects of smoking, they are less inclined to quit, he said. Menthol also works with nicotine to enhance nicotine's addictive effects. Banning menthol will save thousands of lives, Mendez said. “This is the closest we have been,“ Mendez said of the proposed prohibition.
Read the full story at Yahoo! News
CAsToR investigators Meza and Mendez write for the Conversation about the reasons for FDA to pursue a cigarette menthol ban
Rafael Meza, PhD and David Mendez, PhD
POSTED: Wed May 18, 2022
The FDA has opened the public comment period for the agency’s proposed ban on menthol cigarettes. Epidemiology and global health professor Rafael Meza studies data modeling in disease prevention and cancer risk. David Mendez, who studies smoking cessation and tobacco control policies, is an associate professor of health management and policy. These University of Michigan researchers found that, in a 38-year period, African Americans suffered most of the harmful effects of menthol cigarettes. Now the researchers have developed a model to simulate the possible benefits of the menthol ban, based on studies of population trends in tobacco use. As experts on the behavioral and public health aspects of smoking, they explain the role of menthol in smoking-related illness and death.
Read the full story at The Conversation
CAsToR investigator Cliff Douglas discusses the proposed FDA menthol ban in MedPage
Clifford E. Douglas, JD
POSTED: Tue May 03, 2022
“The premature demand that menthol be banned in all tobacco products, if implemented, risks handing almost the entire tobacco marketplace over to cigarettes, which kill half of long-term users. Science has demonstrated that a variety of noncombustible products offer reduced-risk alternatives for adult smokers who are either unable or unwilling to quit using nicotine completely. These range from e-cigarettes and oral nicotine lozenges and pouches to such products as a very low-nitrosamine smokeless tobacco called snus. Research to date suggests that retaining menthol in some or perhaps all of them could help adults quit smoking.” — Clifford E. Douglas, JD (Director, Tobacco Research Network; Faculty, University of Michigan School of Public Health)
Read the full story at MedPage Today
CAsToR e-Announcements (April 2022)
POSTED: Mon May 02, 2022
A bi-monthly e-newsletter of CAsToR highlights, events and more. Headlines: Society for Research on Nicotine and Tobacco Annual Meeting; Dr. Le promoted to Assistant Research Scientist; Delvon Mattingly receives the 2022 Harburg Student Award for Excellence in Social Epidemiology; Dr. Nancy Fleischer and researchers created a new interactive tool housing US data on Tobacco 21 (T21) laws; Recent publications, events and opportunities.  
Read the CAsToR e-Announcements (April 2021)
Congratulations! CaSToR Trainee Delvon Mattingly awarded Harburg Student Award for Excellence in Social Epidemiology
Delvon Mattingly
POSTED: Wed Apr 20, 2022
University of Michigan Doctoral Student and CaSToR Trainee Delvon Mattingly has been awarded the Harburg Student Award for Excellence in Social Epidemiology by the Center for Social Epidemiology and Population Health (CSEPH) at the University of Michigan. The award is in recognition of his paper “Change in Distress About Police Brutality and Substance Use Among Young People, 2017-2020.” Each year the Harburg Award recognizes one MPH student and one PhD student who displays outstanding promise in the study of the social and psychosocial determinants of health. The award recognizes student work that seeks to integrate and understand the links between social determinants, psychological processes, behaviors and biology in health research.  
Read Delvon’s paper
Michigan Public Health database serves as resource for researchers on Tobacco 21 laws
POSTED: Fri Apr 15, 2022
Researchers can now utilize a new interactive tool housing US data on Tobacco 21 (T21) laws—regulations that raise the minimum age of the sale of tobacco products to 21. Nancy Fleischer, associate professor of Epidemiology at the University of Michigan School of Public Health, worked on the database and highlights that data collected for this tool can be used by researchers to further study the effects and public health impact of T21 policies.  
We created this database to estimate the proportion of the US population covered by T21 laws over time. Other researchers can now link these data to other data sources, as we did recently in a paper examining the impact of T21 laws on youth smoking initiation.
Read the full story at Michigan Public Health News Center
“Build Back Better’s e-cigarette tax will make people smoke more”
Kenneth E. Warner, PhD
POSTED: Mon Nov 22, 2021
CAsToR Investigator Ken Warner wrote an Op-Ed in the Washington Post about the downsides of the e-cigarette tax proposed by Congress without a corresponding increase in cigarette taxes:  
The problem with the tax is simple. Economic studies demonstrate that cigarettes and e-cigarettes are substitutes for each other. If cigarettes become more costly relative to e-cigarettes, some cigarette smokers will switch to e-cigarettes. Conversely, if e-cigarette prices rise relative to cigarette prices — as they will under the legislation’s tax provision — some people will smoke cigarettes who would otherwise have used e-cigarettes.
Read the full story at Washington Post
CAsToR work regarding the burden of menthol cigarettes and the impact of a menthol ban in the US cited in Politico
Packs of Newport cigarettes are seen on a shelf in a grocery store on April 29, 2021, in the Brooklyn borough of New York City. | Michael M. Santiago/Getty Images
POSTED: Mon Nov 15, 2021
In the 1950s, only about 5 percent of African Americans who smoked used menthol, but by the mid 2000s, that figure was over 85 percent, said Phillip Gardiner, the co-chair of the African American Tobacco Control Leadership Council, and adjunct faculty member at Touro University in California. The consequences have been stark. A study released this year by David Mendez, an associate professor of public health at the University of Michigan School of Public Health, and his colleague Thuy Le found that African Americans, who make up 12 percent of the U.S. population, comprised 50 percent of the total menthol-related deaths and disease from 1980 to 2018.
Read the full story at
CAsToR Year 4: A letter from the Principal Investigators
A short letter from David Levy and Rafael Meza to mark the fourth year of the Center for the Assessment of Tobacco Regulations
POSTED: Tue Oct 26, 2021
Dear Fellow CAsToR Members, We are excited to be now in the fourth year of CAsToR. A great many things and challenges have happened during Year 3, and we again just wanted to take a brief moment to thank you for all your contributions, and share some of our accomplishments and plans for the next year.
Read the letter
Will a New Study on Menthol Cigarettes’ Harm to Black Americans Finally Push the FDA to Act?
A pack of Newport menthols. Michael M. Santiago/Getty Images
POSTED: Fri Oct 15, 2021
Tobacco researchers have known for decades that mentholated cigarettes do outsized harm to Black Americans. And now, a recent study from University of Michigan public health researchers David Mendez and Thuy Le bolsters that understanding. According to the study, there were 157,000 smoking-related premature deaths among Black Americans, and 1.5 million years of life lost, between 1980 and 2018. That’s 12 percent of the U.S. population shouldering 41 percent and 50 percent, respectively, of the total damage caused by menthols during that time frame. “What we’re trying to do is give ammunition to the FDA so they can make the most reasonable decision. The FDA can only act if they have scientific evidence,” said Mendez.
Read the full story at
Graphic warning labels on cigarettes could have prevented hundreds of thousands of deaths
A proposed graphic tobacco warning label with a child using an oxygen mask. Image courtesy
POSTED: Mon Sep 27, 2021
“Industry litigation and delays to implementing tobacco regulations have high costs to public health,” said Rafael Meza, professor of epidemiology and global public health at U-M’s School of Public Health and senior author of the study published in JAMA Health Forum. “This research shows that we must move forward with implementation to maximize the benefits of adding graphic health warnings to cigarette’s packaging.”  
Read the full story at Michigan News
How Many Deaths Will New Cigarette Warnings Prevent?
Two computer rendered cigarette packs with graphic warning labels
POSTED: Mon Sep 27, 2021
Modeling by Rafael Meza, PhD, of the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor, and colleagues indicated that, depending on the degree to which the warnings discourage smoking initiation and prompt current users to quit, anywhere from 275,000 to 5.5 million deaths would be averted by the year 2100.  
Read the full story at Medpage Today
Don't Rush FDA’s Vaping Products Review
A close up of a woman exhaling a large cloud of vapor from her e-cigarette.
POSTED: Mon Sep 13, 2021
“It is also important for the public -- including clinicians -- to be aware of the rapidly growing evidence that vaping can be effective in quitting smoking. Indeed, the CDC reports that more adult smokers use, and have success using, e-cigarettes than other products in their attempts to quit smoking. And vaping is likely more effective for smoking cessation than FDA-approved nicotine replacement medicines, such as gum and patches, according to multiple credible sources, including the respected Cochrane Review.” — Clifford E. Douglas, JD (Director, Tobacco Research Network; Faculty, University of Michigan School of Public Health)
Read the full story at MedPage Today
Menthol ban would save 650,000 lives in the next 40 years
Cigarettes in ashtray
POSTED: Fri Sep 03, 2021
Banning menthol flavors in cigarettes could reduce smoking by 15% by having smokers giving up tobacco products altogether or switching to e-cigarettes and other nicotine vaping products—avoiding 16,250 tobacco-related deaths per year by 2060, according to a new University of Michigan study. “This work is the culmination of a series of sequential projects aimed to assess the impact that a menthol ban could have on smoking, tobacco use and downstream health effects,” said Rafael Meza, one of the authors of the study and a professor of epidemiology at U-M’s School of Public Health. “Our findings show that a menthol ban could result in considerable health gains and highlight the urgency for final approval and implementation of the ban.” “Recent evidence finds that a menthol ban would likely increase smoking cessation, with more limited evidence of reducing smoking initiation and switching from smoking to other products like e-cigarettes,” said David Levy, professor of oncology at Georgetown University and lead author of the paper.
Read the full story at Michigan News
Are Concerns About Teen Vaping Overblown?
A teen girl vaping at an amusement park
POSTED: Thu Aug 26, 2021
There’s good news, even better news, and a bit of bad news in a novel analysis of teens’ use of tobacco products. As previous studies have indicated, overall use, as measured by “nicotine product days” (NPDs) -- the number of days an individual smoked cigarettes or used smokeless tobacco or nicotine-containing vapes in the past month, according to National Youth Tobacco Survey (NYTS) data -- declined substantially from 1999 to 2020 among high-school and middle-school students, reported Ruoyan Sun, PhD, of the University of Alabama at Birmingham, and colleagues.
Read the full story at MedPage Today