FDA Releases Proposed Rules to Prohibit Menthol Flavoring in Cigarettes and All Flavors in Cigars
ACS CAN urges FDA to finalize rules swiftly to reduce tobacco-related cancer and combat Big Tobacco’s long-time targeting of Black communities
WASHINGTON D.C. – The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) released its proposed rules today to eliminate menthol cigarettes and eliminate all flavors in all cigars. Ending menthol flavoring in cigarettes is a long overdue step forward in reducing youth tobacco initiation and Big Tobacco’s targeting of Black communities, who consistently report the highest prevalence of menthol cigarette use. Eliminating flavors in all cigars at the same time will maximize the public health impact by not allowing the industry to simply move people to similar products, as well as will help reduce youth initiation and save kids from a lifetime of addiction to these deadly products.
“The American Cancer Society Cancer Action Network (ACS CAN) applauds the administration’s proposed rules to end the sale of menthol cigarettes and eliminate all flavors in all cigars,” said Lisa Lacasse, president of ACS CAN. “With tobacco use being the number one cause of preventable death and responsible for one-third of all cancer deaths, FDA’s proposed rules are a critical next step to combat Big Tobacco’s efforts to lure new customers into a lifetime of addiction with menthol flavoring and candy flavored cigars and reduce suffering and death from tobacco-related diseases.”
Prohibiting menthol would help reduce tobacco initiation among youth and stimulate cessation among adult users, saving lives from tobacco related disease like cancer. Recent research from the American Cancer Society examined the impact on the sale of cigarettes of a Massachusetts law that restricted the sale of all flavored tobacco products in the state and found that this action decreased the sale of menthol cigarettes, contributing to a reduction in overall cigarette sales.
“FDA’s long-awaited action to eliminate menthol flavoring in cigarettes ends the shocking, decades-long deference to the tobacco industry, which has repeatedly demonstrated its willingness to profit from products that result in death,” said Lacasse.
Once finalized, this rule will also help combat the health disparities driven by Big Tobacco's premeditated predatory practices to addict Black, LGBTQ and low-income communities for decades.
As a result of the tobacco industry’s targeted marketing, menthol has had a particularly disproportionate impact on African Americans who consistently report the highest prevalence of menthol cigarette use with 83.1% of Black people who smoke using menthol cigarettes, as compared to 48% of Hispanic people who smoke, 41.5% of Asian people who smoke and 31.6% of white people who smoke.
“FDA’s actions today send a clear message that Big Tobacco’s strategy to profit off addicting Black Americans will no longer be tolerated” said Lacasse. “Currently, lung cancer deaths rates in Black males are 15% higher than those of white males in the US. If we’re going to address these very real health disparities, we must take strong action to end the industry’s targeting of Black communities.”
It’s paramount that every effort is made to reduce the suffering and death from tobacco intentionally and disproportionately inflicted upon Black Americans and it must be done in a way that, as the proposed rules do, targets the industry and retailers, not individuals. It’s also critical that individuals trying to quit have access to the cessation resources they need, as it is well documented that menthol flavoring not only makes it easier to start smoking but also more difficult to quit.
The proposed rules also have the potential to greatly reduce youth initiation, helping to spare the next generation from a lifetime of addiction. Menthol is currently the preferred flavor among youth, with roughly half of teens who smoke reporting menthol cigarette use. Additionally, cigars are the second most popular tobacco product used by youth and currently the most popular tobacco product among Black youth.
“Given the public health impact these rules could have, the risk of delayed action is far too great,” said Lacasse. “We urge the FDA to swiftly finalize these proposed rules.”
For more than a decade, ACS CAN has been urging FDA to prohibit menthol, including in cigarettes, as part of our ongoing call for a total flavor prohibition in all tobacco products. ACS CAN is also committed to continuing our work with state and local lawmakers to end the sale of all flavored tobacco products.