FDA Proposes Ban on Menthol Cigarettes and Flavored Cigars

May 5, 2022

The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) recently announced two proposed rules. One proposal would ban menthol as a characterizing flavor in cigarettes, and the other would ban all characterizing flavors (other than tobacco) in cigars. The Association for Clinical Oncology (ASCO), along with nearly 80 other organizations, signed onto a letter in support of the proposed rules on April 22, 2022. On May 4, the group launched an ad campaign in support of the proposals.

As the leading cause of cancer and death from cancer, smoking accounts for about a third of all deaths in the United States (U.S.). A recent study simulating the impact of a ban on menthol cigarettes and cigars showed that smoking is projected to decline by 15% as early as 2026 due to menthol smokers quitting. The same study estimated a reduction in cumulative smoking and vaping-attributable deaths from 2021 to 2060 by 5%, and a reduction in life-years lost by 8.8%.

The ban on menthol cigarettes and flavored cigars would also address the increased use of menthol cigarettes and flavored tobacco products among children and young adults in the U.S. In recent years, more than half a million young people in the U.S. have used flavored cigars, which adds to the growing number of the nation’s youth that has tried a cigar versus a cigarette, based on research from the FDA.

According to the FDA, and if enacted, these bans will help reduce the appeal of cigarettes, especially among the nation’s youth and young adults, and decrease the likelihood that nonusers who would otherwise experiment with menthol cigarettes and progress to regular smoking. Additionally, they will help improve the health and reduce mortality risk of current menthol cigarette smokers through reduced consumption along with an increased likelihood of cessation. The FDA’s enforcement of the rule would not target individual consumers and is intended to confront the tobacco industry’s manufacturers, distributors, and retailers.

The two proposed rules are open for public comment for two months which the FDA will review and take into consideration before further action. These proposals and subsequent actions represent a vital piece in the Administration’s Cancer Moonshot Initiative, which aims to cut the death rate from cancer by at least 50% within the next 25 years.

Recommendations in ASCO’s updated policy statement on tobacco cessation align with the FDA’s proposals, and the Association remains committed to advancing policies that help decrease tobacco use and prevent the occurrence of cancer and other smoking-caused diseases. The Association applauds the FDA for its actions toward banning all flavored tobacco products and will continue to monitor activities around this issue.

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