FDA Takes Historic Step in Announcing its Plan to End the Sale of All Menthol Cigarettes and Flavored Cigars

However, FDA's partial solution to e-cigarettes will not stop youth vaping 'epidemic,' says American Lung Association

Today, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) announced it intends take a historic step forward in reducing the death and disease caused by tobacco use in our nation, according to the American Lung Association. The agency announced its multipronged approach on tobacco: its intention to prohibit the sales of menthol cigarettes and flavored cigars, while also implementing restrictions on e-cigarette sales in certain locations.

“Today the FDA has signaled its willingness to take a major step forward to reduce tobacco use and help protect the nation’s health,” said American Lung Association National President and CEO Harold Wimmer. “The American Lung Association welcomes this announcement and urges FDA to move to finalize this rule and remove these flavored tobacco products from the marketplace.”

The Lung Association has long advocated for an end to the sale of menthol cigarettes and flavored cigars because flavors have been shown to encourage youth use. In 2013, FDA’s own scientific advisory committee found that menthol increases youth initiation and makes it harder for smokers to quit. In addition, the sale and marketing of menthol cigarettes disproportionately burdens the African-American community as a result of decades of targeted marketing to the African-American community by the tobacco industry.

FDA’s E-Cigarette Plan Leaves Huge Loopholes for the Industry to Continue Efforts to Addict Kids
Today, in response to the “epidemic” level of e-cigarette use (press accounts that state high school e-cigarette use has increased by 75 percent in just one year), FDA announced that it revisit its compliance policy the stop the sales of some flavored e-cigarettes unless they are sold in age-restricted, in person locations.  This flavor restriction will not apply to tobacco, mint and menthol flavors.  FDA also announced its intention to publish best practices relating to online sales.

“Partial measures and restrictions on the sales of e-cigarettes will not solve this nation’s e-cigarette epidemic,” Wimmer stated. “Eliminating menthol cigarettes and flavored cigars are long overdue but today’s announcement doesn’t go far enough to protect our kids from e-cigarettes,” Wimmer said. “One million children have begun using e-cigarettes in the past year alone. Children are using these products in school restrooms and classrooms and even on elementary school playgrounds. FDA must use its full authority to save our children from the harms of e-cigarettes to developing brains, lungs and bodies and a lifetime of addiction to tobacco.”

On November 10, leaders from the six leading organizations committed to ending tobacco use in the U.S., including the American Lung Association, wrote to FDA Commissioner Scott Gottlieb, M.D., stating three core principles: Voluntary action by the industry will never suffice in truly protecting the public health; FDA must take a comprehensive approach and not be limited to sales restrictions; and FDA’s actions must address youth use of all tobacco products, not just e-cigarettes. 

Unfortunately, FDA’s announcement today on e-cigarettes fails to go beyond sales restrictions and in part relies on voluntary actions by at least two major tobacco companies. Moreover, FDA’s announcement today did not include any acknowledgment of the statutory requirement that e-cigarettes must be subject to pre-market review. 

“It is clear that unless FDA fully enforces the law and acts to eliminate all loopholes, the tobacco industry will shift its strategy and find new ways to target and attract youth,” stated Wimmer. “We cannot simply trust the tobacco companies to voluntarily do what’s right:  the only way to address this public health crisis is for the FDA to remove all flavored tobacco products from the market.”

For media interested in speaking with an expert about lung health, tobacco use and tobacco policies, contact the American Lung Association at [email protected] or 312-801-7628.

For more information, contact:

Allison MacMunn
[email protected]

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