US attorneys ask the FDA to urgently ban menthol cigarettes

A coalition of US attorneys called on the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to ban menthol cigarettes “in the best interest of the public” and no longer delay a process that has been on stand-by since 2018.

In a letter sent to the federal agency a few days ago, 23 state attorneys considered this matter an “urgency” and asked the FDA “to finalize rulemaking and prohibit menthol cigarettes” as soon as possible.

“The compelling and consistent scientific evidence shows that removing menthol cigarettes from the U.S. market will likely reduce youth smoking initiation, improve smoking cessation outcomes in adult smokers, advance health equity, and benefit public health,” it read.

The group also warned that the effect of menthol cigarettes on youth smoking initiation has been “well documented”.

They mention as an example the 2019 data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) that estimated that more than half a million middle and high school-aged smokers (46.7%) use menthol cigarettes.


FDA ‘should not be swayed’


The attorneys also reminded that some of them “have long fought to protect their citizens, particularly youth, from the dangers of tobacco products” and that they have already reported several violations of tobacco regulations to the FDA.

According to the signers, prohibiting menthol cigarettes “will not create a significant black market and enforcement authorities are well-equipped to safeguard against illicit trade in menthol cigarettes”.

They also warned that the federal agency should not be “swayed” by the tobacco industry.

The letter has been signed by the attorneys of Idaho, Illinois, Connecticut, Delaware, the District of Columbia, Hawaii, Iowa, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Minnesota, Nebraska, Nevada, New Mexico, New York, North Carolina, the Northern Mariana Islands, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Puerto Rico, Vermont, Washington and Wisconsin.

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    Back and forth


    The FDA made initial moves to ban menthol in 2018, but has not issued a full slate of regulations to carry out the initiative.

    The US banned most flavoured cigarettes in 2009 when president Barack Obama enacted the Family Smoking Prevention and Tobacco Control Act. However, it did not ban menthol.

    The agency’s Tobacco Products Scientific Advisory Committee (TPSAC) weighed in two years later, claiming in a report that “removal of menthol cigarettes from the marketplace would benefit public health” – although it stopped short of outright recommending a ban.

    A peer-review investigation in 2013 found that menthol cigarettes posed “a public health risk above that seen with nonmenthol cigarettes”.


    What This Means: This is not the first time that the FDA is urged to take further actions to crack down on menthol cigarettes.

    In September 2020, the American Medical Association (AMA) joined a court case against the FDA, accusing the federal agency of failing in its duty to issue regulations to ban menthol in tobacco products.

    According to the Federal Trade Commission (FTC), menthol cigarettes account for 36% of cigarettes smoked in the US.

     David Palacios TobaccoIntelligence staff

    Photo: Wikimedia Commons

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    David Palacios Rubio

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