FDA Proposes Rules Prohibiting Menthol Cigarettes and Flavored Cigars

From FDA and OSH

As many of you have seen, FDA announced today that it has issued proposed rules to prohibit menthol as a characterizing flavor in cigarettes and prohibit all characterizing flavors (including menthol) in cigars. These are critical actions to save lives and advance health equity. FDA provided more background about these proposed rules in a fact sheet, and has a web page explaining how the public can submit comments and participate in two listening sessions in June. FDA will have a Zoom call for stakeholders at 3:00pmEastern time today.

CDC supports effective FDA regulation of tobacco products, and is very supportive of FDA’s commitment to address the public health issues posed by menthol cigarettes and characterizing flavors in cigars.

Flavors, including menthol, mask the harshness of tobacco, make tobacco products more appealing to young people, and make it more likely that young people will progress to regular tobacco use. The tobacco industry disproportionately markets menthol cigarettes and flavored small cigars to certain population groups, like women, people who are younger, and in neighborhoods with a large proportion of Black people. This has likely contributed to the higher prevalence of use seen in these groups of people. In addition, people from additional racial and ethnic minority groups, LGBTQ+ people, people with a low income, and people with mental health conditions also are more likely to smoke menthol cigarettes than the rest of the population.

Menthol enhances the effects of nicotine on the brain, making products containing nicotine even more addictive. In recent years, tobacco companies also have increased the amount of nicotine in menthol cigarettes. These factors play a role in youth starting these products, but also make it harder for people to quit. People who smoke menthol cigarettes are less likely to successfully quit than people who smoke non-menthol cigarettes.

We can help reduce flavored tobacco use and help people quit using tobacco products by increasing equitable access to evidence-based quitting resources, including counseling and medication; implementing policies that prohibit or decrease sales of flavored tobacco products; and addressing structural and social drivers of tobacco product use. It is important to continue and build on this work, as any final rule by FDA is likely to take time to go into effect.

We will continue to share information as we have it about upcoming webinars, fact sheets, and other educational materials that help explain the content of the rules and the federal commenting process. Thank you for your commitment to this important public health issue.

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