FDA’s Proposed Rules to Prohibit Menthol Cigarettes and Flavored Cigars Will Protect Lung Health

Today the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) proposed product standards that ban menthol as a characterizing flavor in cigarettes and ban all characterizing flavors (including menthol) in cigars. The decision comes as the result of a citizen complaint filed by public health organizations and over a decade of advocacy efforts.

“Respiratory Health Association applauds the FDA’s decision to move forward with greater regulation of these harmful tobacco products,” commented Joel Africk, RHA’s President & Chief Executive Officer. “We continue to fight to reduce the burden of tobacco-related lung illnesses in our communities and believe removing menthol products from store shelves is the right thing to do.”

The less harsh, mint-like flavoring of menthol products makes them easier to smoke and often appeals to younger or new smokers. Additionally, tobacco companies have historically marketed these products to teens and in minority communities. Studies have shown as many as 70% of teen smokers use menthol cigarettes. Of Black smokers, nearly 85% smoke menthol cigarettes compared to 30% of all white smokers – contributing to health disparities including risk for lung disease. In total, an estimated 18.6 million current smokers use menthol cigarettes.

“Big Tobacco – a multi-billion-dollar industry – has long used menthol flavoring to target new smokers and minority communities,” continued Africk. “The FDA’s move will prevent a new generation of smokers, help address significant lung health inequities, and save lives.”

The FDA’s rules also offer protections to consumers, as enforcement will only address manufacturers, distributors, and retailers. RHA looks forward to President Biden’s administration finalizing these new rules – and helping implement a policy that focuses on improving lung health and holding the tobacco industry accountable instead of criminalizing individual use of these products.

For media inquiries, please contact Joe Siebelts at [email protected] or (312) 628-0204.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                      

Respiratory Health Association has been a local public health leader in Illinois since 1906, focusing on lung health and clean air issues. RHA works to prevent lung disease, promote clean air, and help people live better through education, research, and policy change. As a policy leader, RHA is committed to advancing innovative and meaningful tobacco control policies. We have been one of the state’s leading advocates for federal oversight of tobacco and vaping products, smoke-free laws, Tobacco 21, and other tobacco product policies.

RHA Statement on FDA’s Proposed Menthol Cigarette Ban

In Lung Health Victory, FDA Plans New Product Standards to Ban Menthol Cigarettes and Flavored Cigars

Today the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) announced plans to issue product standards within the next year to ban menthol as a characterizing flavor in cigarettes and ban all characterizing flavors (including menthol) in cigars. The decision comes as the result of a citizen complaint filed by public health organizations.

Respiratory Health Association applauds the FDA decision to move forward with greater regulation of these harmful products.

The soothing sensation of menthol cigarettes makes them easier to smoke and potentially harder to quit; and because they feel less harsh, they have greater appeal to new smokers and young people.[i]  In fact, 70% of youth smokers use menthol cigarettes.[ii]  And because big tobacco companies have intentionally marketed menthol cigarettes to Black communities since World War II, it is not surprising that nearly 9 in 10 Black smokers (88.5 percent) of all ages use menthol cigarettes.[iii]

Both the FDA and the U.S. Surgeon General have established that menthol cigarettes contribute to racial health disparities in the U.S.[iv],[v]   Therefore, banning the sale of menthol cigarettes is an important step in broader efforts to achieving racial equity in health.  Further, a ban on all flavored cigarettes and cigars will decrease youth smoking and could increase the impact of successful cessation efforts, particularly among communities of color, low-income communities, and LGBTQ+ individuals.

RHA looks forward to moving toward a policy that focuses on industry accountability and not criminalizing possession.

Respiratory Health Association is committed to continuing to fight to reduce the burden of tobacco-related illnesses in our communities and believe removing flavored tobacco from store shelves is the right thing to do. Big Tobacco, a multi-billion-dollar industry, must be held responsible for the distribution of products that addict young people and increase the harm caused by smoking.

[i] https://www.cdc.gov/tobacco/basic_information/tobacco_industry/menthol-cigarettes/index.html

[ii] Gardiner PS. The African Americanization of Menthol Cigarette Use in the United States. Nicotine and Tobacco Research 2004; 6:Suppl 1:S55-65 [cited 2018 Jun 12].

[iii] https://truthinitiative.org/research-resources/traditional-tobacco-products/menthol-facts-stats-and-regulations

[iv] Food and Drug Administration. Preliminary Scientific Evaluation of the Possible Public Health Effects of Menthol Versus Nonmenthol Cigarettes pdf icon[PDF–1.6 MB]external icon. 2013.

[v] U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. Smoking Cessation. A Report of the Surgeon General. Atlanta, GA: U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, National Center for Chronic Disease Prevention and Health Promotion, Office on Smoking and Health, 2020.