Recently, you may have seen a lot of news about menthol cigarettes and flavored cigars. This is because the Biden administration is in the final stages of reviewing two proposed rules by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to end the sale of menthol cigarettes and all flavored cigars. This has been in progress for the last two years and has involved an intensive review and comment period.

Once final, these rules will save lives and reduce tobacco-related health disparities, so it is important for everyone to understand what is currently happening and why it is essential to end the sale of both menthol cigarettes and all flavored cigars.

What’s Happening Now

On April 28, 2022, the FDA announced two proposed rules, one to end the sale of menthol cigarettes and one to end the sale of flavored cigars. The public, as well as organizations who support and oppose these rules, had 96 days to submit their comments about the rule. After the comment periods ended, the FDA reviewed and responded to thousands of comments for both rules, which was a lengthy process. Then on October 16, 2023, the FDA sent the rules to the White House Office of Management and Budget (OMB) for final review. During the past four months, OMB has been meeting with many organizations to hear their support and concerns about the rules.

Currently, the rules are waiting on final approval from President Biden, and the American Lung Association is urging the president to finalize these rules as soon as possible to save lives.

Once the final rules are released, barring any delay from the anticipated lawsuits from the tobacco industry, products will have to be removed from the marketplace within one year.

What Can You Do?

You can help us end the death and disease associated with menthol cigarettes and flavored cigars. Take part in our advocacy alert and using our template, submit your own comments to FDA for them to consider. You can also raise awareness about this issue by sharing our posts on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.

Why Is This Important?

Ending the sale of menthol cigarettes and flavored cigars will save lives and help promote health equity.

Menthol cigarettes make it easier to start smoking and harder to quit. That is why flavors, including menthol, are one of the primary reasons kids start using tobacco products. Currently, nearly 19 million people smoke menthol cigarettes. The use of menthol is highest among Black and Brown communities and the lesbian, gay and bisexual population.

Ending the sale of both menthol cigarettes and flavored cigars is pivotal in the effort to eliminate dramatic health inequities in U.S. tobacco users. The efforts of Big Tobacco to market and sell menthol cigarettes to Black individuals have contributed to significant health disparities: over 80% of Black individuals who smoke use menthol cigarettes. Tobacco use is the number one cause of preventable death among Black individuals, claiming 45,000 Black lives every year. Black men have the highest rates of lung cancer in the U.S., and Black middle and high school students smoke flavored cigars at rates higher than cigarettes. These statistics did not happen by accident. They are the results of decades of marketing directed at Black communities by the tobacco industry. Halting the sale of these flavored tobacco products lays the groundwork for reversing decades of disparities in tobacco use, disease and death in Black and Brown communities.

Research shows that ending the sale of menthol cigarettes could result in a significant number of people quitting smoking. In fact, one study estimates almost one million people would quit smoking within 17 months of the end of the sale of menthol cigarettes, including almost a quarter of a million Black individuals in the U.S. After Canada stopped selling menthol cigarettes in 2017, the country saw an increase in quit attempts and cessation among people who smoked menthol cigarettes.

How Did We Get Here?

In 2009, the FDA passed the Family Smoking Prevention and Tobacco Control Act, which removed all other flavored cigarettes from the marketplace and called for completion of a report on the public health impact of menthol cigarettes within the first year after establishing the Tobacco Products Scientific Advisory Committee. The resulting report concluded that allowing menthol in cigarettes harmed public health and that they should be removed from the marketplace. So, while the number of people smoking continues to decrease, the presence of menthol on the market continues to be an issue. As of 2018, about 38% of all cigarette sales were menthol cigarettes, the highest rate since major tobacco companies were required to report this data.

The American Lung Association has long supported the removal of menthol cigarettes from the marketplace. In April 2013, we submitted a formal petition to the FDA, requesting the prohibition of menthol as a characterizing flavor of cigarettes. We continue to speak out and advocate for the removal of menthol cigarettes from the market. We urge you to join us at Lung.org/Stop-Menthol

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