Recently, you may have heard about the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) releasing two proposed rules to end the sale of menthol cigarettes and all flavored cigars. Though this will involve a number of steps and take some time before it is in effect, 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: it will reduce youth use of tobacco products and save lives and reduce tobacco-related health disparities.
What’s Happening Now
On April 28, 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 now has until August 2, 2022 to submit their comments, which you can do via the American Lung Association’s action alert. After the comment periods end, the FDA reviews and responds to them, and the rule goes back to the White House Office of Management and Budget for final approval.
Once the final rules are released, barring any delay from the anticipated lawsuits from the tobacco industry, products will have to be removed 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 Americans have contributed to significant health disparities: over 80% of Black smokers use menthol cigarettes. Tobacco use is the number one cause of preventable death among Black Americans, 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 smokers would quit smoking within 17 months of the end of the sale of menthol cigarettes, including almost a quarter of a million Black Americans. After Canada stopped selling menthol cigarettes in 2017, the country saw an increase in quit attempts and cessation among menthol smokers.
How Did We Get Here?
In 2009, the FDA passed the Family Smoking Prevention and Tobacco Control Act, which allowed continued sale of menthol cigarettes while removing all other flavored cigarettes from the marketplace. The Act 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.
Blog last updated: June 22, 2022