White House Again Misses Deadline to Finalize FDA Rules Prohibiting Menthol Cigarettes and all Flavors in Cigars; Refuses to Address Public Health Disparities

ACS CAN says White House must act to reduce tobacco-related cancer and meet Cancer Moonshot goals

April 1, 2024

WASHINGTON, D.C. – Today, the White House again failed to meet their own deadline to finalize the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) proposed rules to end the sale of menthol cigarettes and eliminate all flavors in cigars despite an overwhelming amount of evidence demonstrating menthol flavoring is a serious public health risk.  

“The administration continues to miss the opportunity to leave a significant, lasting public health legacy, save lives and reach their Cancer Moonshot goals by not finalizing these rules. There is no scientific evidence to support the White House’s decision to not fully prohibit menthol flavoring in cigarettes and all flavors in cigars,” said Dr. Karen E. Knudsen, CEO of the American Cancer Society and American Cancer Society Cancer Action Network (ACS CAN). “This continued inaction is a shocking deference to the tobacco industry, which has repeatedly demonstrated its willingness to profit from products that result in death.” 

This inaction comes at the same time as the White House declared April as National Cancer Prevention and Early Detection Month. With 30% of all cancer deaths due to smoking, the president must meaningfully address tobacco in order to significantly reduce the number of new cancer diagnoses.  

Big Tobacco has used these products for decades to target Black communities, who, as a result, consistently report the highest prevalence of menthol cigarette use. 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. Citing these alarming statistics, 32 members of the Congressional Black Caucus sent a letter to the FDA in August supporting these new rules.   

The White House has also refused to address the concerns with flavored cigars which pose a real danger to the long-term health of all Americans, especially young people. An estimated 420,000 U.S. students currently used cigars in 2023. Youth who are Black, or Hispanic or Latino are twice as likely to regularly smoke cigars than their White peers. Big Tobacco continues to target youth with their cigars, cigarillos, and little cigars which are all sold in appealing flavors such as menthol, banana, mango, grape, Tropical Twist, Purple Swish and chocolate.  

Prohibiting menthol in cigarettes and all flavors in cigars would help reduce tobacco initiation among youth and stimulate cessation among adult users, saving lives from tobacco-related disease like cancer. 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.   

ACS CAN has been urging FDA to prohibit menthol in cigarettes in its call for a total flavor prohibition in all tobacco products for years. ACS CAN is hopeful that the White House will stop delaying and finalize these rules immediately.  


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