FDA Wants To Ban Menthol Cigarettes

By Bryan Le 11/19/18

The Food and Drug Administration believes that flavored products are too appealing to teens.

bunch of black menthol cigarettes on white background
Menthol cigarettes could go extinct. Mohd Hafez Abu Bakar | Dreamstime.com

The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) is moving to restrict the sale of flavored e-cigs and cigars, and ban menthol cigarettes outright.

Last Thursday, the FDA released a detailed outline of the proposed policies. FDA Commissioner Scott Gottlieb says the regulations are meant to stop teens from picking up smoking. According to the FDA, flavored products are popular with young people and make it too easy to start smoking or vaping.

“Today, I'm pursuing actions aimed at addressing the disturbing trend of youth nicotine use and continuing to advance the historic declines we've achieved in recent years in the rates of combustible cigarette use among kids,” said Gottlieb.

Cigarette smoking rates are lower than ever in the United States, but thanks to vaping being massively popular, nicotine addiction remains an imminent threat to youths today, Gottlieb believes.

Particularly concerning to the FDA is a 78% increase in e-cigarette use among high schoolers and, alarmingly, a 48% increase in e-cigarette use among middle schoolers between 2017 and 2018. “These data shock my conscience,” said Gottlieb.

Menthol has long been a target of the FDA. Public health officials believe that thanks to the menthol counteracting the harshness of the smoke, menthol cigarettes make it easier to start smoking.

“I believe these menthol-flavored products represent one of the most common and pernicious routes by which kids initiate on combustible cigarettes,” Gottlieb said.

The National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) supported the FDA’s endeavor to ban menthol cigarettes as they are popular among black Americans.

“For decades, data have shown that the tobacco industry has successfully and intentionally marketed mentholated cigarettes to African Americans and particularly African American women as 'replacement smokers,'” an NAACP statement read.

Cigarette manufacturers predictably did not warm up to the idea.

“We continue to believe that a total ban on menthol cigarettes or flavored cigars would be an extreme measure not supported by the science and evidence,” Altria Group Inc., which produces Marlboro Menthol, wrote in a statement.

Anti-smoking advocates like Matthew Meyers, president of the Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids, welcome the move but believe a total ban on flavored e-cigs would do much more to stop teens from getting hooked on nicotine.

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Bryan Le grew up in the 90's, so the Internet is practically his third parent. This combined with a love for journalism led him to The Fix. When he isn't fulfilling his duties as Editorial Coordinator, he's obsessing over fancy keyboards he can't justify buying. Find Bryan on LinkedIn or Twitter