FDA to Ban Menthol Cigarettes, Cigars

The effort will build on previous flavor bans and include flavored cigars.

April 30, 2021

Cigarette Burning

WASHINGTON—Yesterday, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) announced its commitment to advancing two tobacco product standards. The agency is working toward issuing proposed product standards within the next year to ban menthol as a characterizing flavor in cigarettes and ban all characterizing flavors—including menthol—in cigars.

“Banning menthol—the last allowable flavor—in cigarettes and banning all flavors in cigars will help save lives, particularly among those disproportionately affected by these deadly products,” said Acting FDA Commissioner Janet Woodcock, M.D., in a press release. “With these actions, the FDA will help significantly reduce youth initiation, increase the chances of smoking cessation among current smokers, and address health disparities experienced by communities of color, low-income populations and LGBTQ+ individuals, all of whom are far more likely to use these tobacco products,” Dr. Woodcock said.

“Together, these actions represent powerful, science-based approaches that will have an extraordinary public health impact. Armed with strong scientific evidence, and with full support from the administration, we believe these actions will launch us on a trajectory toward ending tobacco-related disease and death in the U.S.”

The agency pointed to science and research as supporting evidence that a menthol ban will help people quit. Studies show that menthol increases the appeal of tobacco and facilitates progression to regular smoking, particularly among youth and young adults. If implemented, the FDA’s enforcement of any ban on menthol cigarettes and all flavored cigars will only address manufacturers, distributors, wholesalers, importers and retailers. The FDA said it cannot and will not enforce against individual consumer possession or use of menthol cigarettes or any tobacco product. The agency said it will work to make sure that any unlawful tobacco products do not make their way onto the market.

“Menthol makes up more than 37% of the tobacco market,” said Lyle Beckwith, NACS senior vice president of government relations. “That demand will not go away due to a ban. NACS is on record opposing menthol bans as we believe illicit vendors will quickly source and begin selling foreign and counterfeit menthol cigarettes. Illicit vendors do not verify age, do not collect and remit taxes, and they sell other illegal products beyond just menthol cigarettes.”