“These proposed product standards, if finalized, would represent a public health victory, helping significantly reduce youth initiation and increase the chances current smokers quit,” FDA Commissioner Robert M. Califf, M.D., said in a press briefing Thursday. “Additionally, today’s proposals represent an important step in advancing health equity by significantly reducing tobacco-related health disparities.”
About 18.5 million people smoke menthol cigarettes, according to the FDA. The additive can enhance the addictive effects of nicotine and gives cigarettes a minty taste that can attract youths and young adults. Almost half of youths who have ever smoked a cigarette started with a menthol cigarette. This flavor also has been especially popular among Black smokers.
Within 40 years, the FDA estimates that banning menthol cigarettes would lead to a 15% reduction in smoking and prevent as many as 654,000 deaths from smoking-related illness, including up to 238,000 deaths among Black smokers.
In 2009, Congress banned flavored cigarettes but made an exception for menthol. For years, the Academy has been urging the FDA to remove these products from the market.
The FDA’s proposal does not include menthol e-cigarettes. FDA officials noted some smokers turn to these products when trying to quit, and a decision on regulations is pending.
All flavors of cigars except tobacco would be prohibited under the FDA proposal. Like menthol cigarettes, cigars with flavors like strawberry, grape and cocoa are popular among youths, especially those who are Black. In 2019, more young adults tried a cigar for the first time than a cigarette, according to the FDA. Among cigar smokers, more than half reported recent use of a flavored cigar, data from the 2020 National Youth Tobacco Survey showed.
The FDA stressed that if the prohibitions are finalized, enforcement will be on manufacturers and retailers, not on consumers in possession of these products.
The FDA is accepting comments from May 4 through July 5. It also will hold public listening sessions on June 13 and 15. Under the proposal, the final rules would go into effect one year after the FDA publishes them.
- FDA fact sheet on proposals to prohibit menthol cigarettes and flavored cigars
- AAP tobacco control resources
- AAP policy Clinical Practice Policy to Protect Children From Tobacco, Nicotine, and Tobacco Smoke
- Information for parents from HealthyChildren.org about tobacco
- FDA’s The Real Cost campaign