Apr 28, 2022 - Health

FDA proposes ban on menthol cigarettes

Picture of five blue Marlboro boxes containing menthol cigarettes

Photo: Drew Angerer/Getty Images

The Food and Drug Administration on Thursday proposed two rules that would ban menthol cigarettes and flavored cigars.

Driving the news: FDA commissioner Robert Califf announced the rules while testifying before a congressional subcommittee, saying that "these actions are appropriate for the protection of public health."

  • He added that a ban would "reduce the mortality risk of current smokers of menthol cigarettes or flavored cigars by substantially decreasing their consumption and increasing the likelihood of cessation."
  • The rules could be the most aggressive action taken by the FDA to regulate tobacco products to date, per the Washington Post.

The big picture: The CDC says that while tobacco companies claim that menthol cigarettes are "smoother" than other cigarettes, they "are not less harmful than other cigarettes and they are likely a greater risk to public health than non-menthol cigarettes."

  • Teenagers and Black people are more likely to smoke menthol cigarettes than other groups, per the CDC.
  • The FDA said that menthol "makes it more difficult for people to quit smoking."

Details: The FDA said that the proposed menthol product standard will reduce the appeal of cigarettes, particularly for younger populations.

By the numbers: Menthol tobacco products have become a large portion of tobacco industry sales.

  • As of 2018, sales of menthol cigarettes made up more than a third of all cigarette sales in the U.S. — "the highest proportion since major tobacco companies were required to report those data," the CDC notes.

On flavored cigars, the FDA said that having flavors such as strawberry, grape, cocoa and fruit punch "increase appeal and make cigars easier to use."

  • More than half a million young Americans use flavored cigars, and young people are more likely to try a cigar than a cigarette, the FDA notes.
  • The FDA said that issuing this rule would "reduce the appeal of cigars ... and decrease the likelihood of experimentation, development of nicotine dependence, and progression to regular use."

What they're saying: "The proposed rules would help prevent children from becoming the next generation of smokers and help adult smokers quit," said Health and Human Services Secretary Xavier Becerra.

  • "Additionally, the proposed rules represent an important step to advance health equity by significantly reducing tobacco-related health disparities."
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