FDA finalizing ban on menthol tobacco products ‘in coming months’

Having missed the Aug. 2023 deadline to finalize rules for the banning of menthol tobacco products — an act 14 years in the making — the FDA will ban menthol tobacco products “in the coming months,” a spokesperson recently told CNN. Despite flavored cigarettes having been banned since 2009, menthol-flavored tobacco products have remained on shelves through the years.

A consequence of “serious lobbying from the industry,” according to CNN’s report, the FDA’s latest missed deadline has drawn the ire of some anti-smoking activists.

“The law passed in 2009 and we’re here in 2023, 14 years later, so while we worked very closely with FDA on this issue, we’re pretty unhappy that they’ve taken such a long time to get this done,” President and CEO of the Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids, Yolonda Richardson, told CNN. “Fourteen years is just way too long.”

Scientific studies have found menthol flavoring to make cigarettes more addictive than tobacco-flavored products. According to the Atlanta-based Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), companies often target vulnerable populations when marketing menthol-flavored cigarettes, which have been found to increase a child’s chances of trying cigarettes.

“Fewer people now smoke cigarettes than in recent decades, but the proportion of people who smoke and use menthol cigarettes has increased, particularly among population groups that experience tobacco-related disparities,” the CDC reported. “The tobacco industry aggressively targets its marketing to certain populations, including young people, women, and racial and ethnic minority groups, particularly Black people. These groups are more likely to smoke menthol cigarettes compared to other population groups.”

An estimated 40% of excess deaths due to menthol cigarette smoking between 1980 and 2018 within the U.S. were experienced by African Americans, despite African Americans only accounting for roughly 12% of the population. In 2021, nearly 80% of children age 6 through 12 that reported using tobacco products used flavored products, such as menthol.

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