FDA Takes Action To Curb Tobacco Use: Proposes Prohibiting Menthol in Cigarettes and Flavors in Cigars, and Restricting Access to Flavored E-Cigarettes

Alarming Increase in Youth Use Illustrates Clear Need for Even More Robust Regulation

November 15, 2018

Washington, D.C. – Today the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) formally announced plans to prohibit menthol flavoring in combustible cigarettes and flavors in cigars, and restrict the sale of some flavored electronic cigarettes to age-restricted in-person locations, with heightened age verification for online sales. The FDA plan comes as newly-released data shows an alarming spike in youth usage of electronic cigarettes; significantly driven by the appeal of kid-friendly flavored products.

The following is a statement from Chris Hansen, president of the American Cancer Society Cancer Action Network (ACS CAN):

“Commissioner Gottlieb is doing the right thing by advancing plans to prohibit menthol flavoring in cigarettes and flavors in cigars. This long overdue action is a major step forward and will have a substantial impact in curbing tobacco use, particularly among youth and within the African American community. For years Big Tobacco has shamelessly used menthol to market and sell its deadly products at a disproportionate rate to these communities. Data show among youth who used cigarettes in 2014, menthol use was high at 53.6 percent and even higher for non-Hispanic black students at 70.5 percent. Among adults, African American smokers overwhelmingly smoke menthol as compared to white smokers.

“We are also pleased to see Commissioner Gottlieb recognize and take action because of the role flavored cigars play in addicting youth to tobacco. If finalized, prohibiting flavors in cigars would eliminate an attractiveness of these addictive products to youth. We urge Commissioner Gottlieb and the FDA to move as quickly as possible to make the prohibition of menthol flavoring in cigarettes and flavored cigars a reality.

“FDA’s announcement regarding plans to restrict the sale of some flavored e-cigarette products to age-restricted in person locations with heightened age verification for online purchases is an important step, but too limited to address tobacco addiction in this country. The agency must do more. The alarming 78 percent increase in e-cigarette use among our nation’s kids in just the last year threatens to erode decades of public health progress reducing tobacco use and addiction in this country. Commissioner Gottlieb himself described the situation as a public health “epidemic.” The only way to begin reversing this epidemic is for FDA to use its full regulatory authority to conduct premarket review of e-cigarettes and cigars. Relying on partial sales restrictions to somewhat curb access of these deadly products is not enough.

“The need for comprehensive regulation of all tobacco products has never been clearer. FDA is moving in the right direction, but details regarding how the agency will implement these newly-announced initiatives to prohibit menthol flavoring in cigarettes and curb availability  of other flavored tobacco products will be crucial. ACS CAN will continue to advocate for FDA to exercise its full authority over all tobacco products and work has hard as possible to reverse this alarming trend.”

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