FDA Continues to Prioritize Industry Profits Over Public Health with Modified Risk Authorization for Menthol-Flavored Cigarette

Statement from ACS CAN President Lisa Lacasse

December 23, 2021

Washington, D.C.— December 23, 2021 – The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) today authorized the marketing of two low-nicotine cigarettes as “modified risk tobacco products,” including one product that is menthol-flavored. FDA’s decision states that the overall health risk and hazards of these products are similar to conventional cigarettes if used the same way.

The American Cancer Society Cancer Action Network (ACS CAN) together with several other public health partners opposed the application for these products given insufficient evidence to make modified risk claims and no assurance the manufacturer of the products would not mislead consumers and entice youth.

A statement from Lisa Lacasse, president of ACS CAN follows:

“In a remarkable and disturbing decision against public health today, the FDA approved two combustible tobacco products, despite insufficient evidence that adults who currently smoke would actually decrease their smoking using these products or that youth will not use them.

“As part of this decision, the FDA will allow a menthol-flavored product to display these modified risk labels despite the substantial known risks of menthol cigarettes and FDA’s own pending actions to prohibit menthol in cigarettes.

“Menthol, other candy- and fruit-flavored tobacco products have long been a key part of the tobacco industry’s strategy to entice our youth into a potential lifetime of addiction. Big Tobacco also has a long history of targeting lower-income, communities of color and LGBTQ+ communities, with flavored products which has led to a disproportionate cancer burden. For example, Black Americans still have the highest death rate and shortest survival of any racial group in the U.S. for most cancers; and Black men have the highest cancer incidence rate.

“FDA’s action today is a step backwards for the protection of public health.  FDA should be prohibiting flavors in all tobacco products, including menthol in cigarettes, and issuing a product standard to make all cigarettes non-addictive.”

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