ALEXANDRIA, Va.—The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has extended the comment period another 30 days for the agency’s two proposed tobacco product standards that would prohibit menthol as a characterizing flavor in cigarettes and prohibit all flavors other than tobacco in cigars. The FDA is now accepting comments until August 2, 2022. The original comment period was slated to end on July 5, 2022.
Earlier this month, NACS, along with NATSO and SIGMA, asked the FDA for a 60-day extension of the comment period.
“Given the complexity of the rules, the extensive data to analyze, and the impact to the marketplace to consider, the Associations are requesting a 60-day extension of the comment period. This additional time will ensure the Associations and our retail members can provide FDA with detailed and meaningful comments on these complex issues,” wrote the groups in a letter to the FDA.
“We have received a number of requests for a 60-day extension of the comment period for both proposed rules, which conveyed concern that the current 60-day comment period does not allow sufficient time to develop a meaningful response to the proposed rules,” wrote the FDA in a statement. “Several organizations have requested that FDA close the comment period after 60 days, conveying that 60 days is enough time to receive meaningful responses and stressed a public health urgency with both product standards.”
“We believe that a 90-day comment period is appropriate as it allows adequate time for interested persons to fully consider the proposed rules, including specific requests for comments, and develop and submit comments without significantly lengthening the rulemaking proceedings,” added the FDA.
The menthol market accounts for roughly 34% of cigarette sales, and flavored cigars account for 51% of cigar sales. Given the existing market and current user base, NACS believes a ban on these products will push sales to the illicit market, which undermines the efforts of responsible retailers and poses a greater risk to communities. The rulemaking process includes a comment period in which the agency will consider input from the public before finalizing the rule.
“History has proven that prohibition of a legal product that has an established user base doesn’t work and has negative consequences for our communities,” stated Anna Blom, NACS director of government relations. “Unfortunately, many current users of these products will seek out illicit sources who don’t check IDs and who sell counterfeit products smuggled into the country.”
Earlier this month, 17 members of Congress sent a letter to the FDA asking it not to move forward with the proposed menthol rules.
“The FDA's rule … would decimate businesses operated by hardworking men and women who responsibly and legally sell tobacco products to adults in compliance with state and federal laws. While we will always prioritize the health of our children, banning legal products from our regulatory system for consenting adults has never and will never be good policy. A rigorous ban on menthol cigarettes will likely lead to an illicit market that puts children at risk and has the potential to financially decimate manufacturers, distributors, wholesalers, importers, and retailers,” wrote NACS and the related association members in a letter to the FDA.
Submit Your Comments to the FDA
NACS is asking members to file comments on the proposed rules. It’s imperative that the FDA hears from convenience retailers, as NACS cannot replicate the personal testimony convenience retailers can provide with their comment letters. The convenience industry invests millions in compliance efforts to ensure that legal, regulated tobacco products do not get into the hands of minors. These protections and investments will be lost if the proposed bans go into effect.
NACS has made it easy for retailers to file personalized comments. Retailers can download a pre-drafted letter that can be modified to describe their business and their compliance efforts. These letters will be even more effective if retailers write their own thoughts based on the points in the template. The more personalized the comments the FDA receives, the better.
Retailers, save a copy of your letter and send it back to Margaret Hardin, grassroots manager, at firstname.lastname@example.org to file on your behalf.
Your comment letter will help the FDA better understand the effects these bans would have on your business and why the FDA should not move forward with their proposed rules.