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Commercial tobacco manufacturers have used menthol cigarettes for years to target vulnerable populations. In fact, according to national surveys, menthol cigarettes are the source of addiction for nearly half of all teen smokers. Menthol increases the palatability of smoking, especially among youth and members of racial and ethnic populations, and menthol increases the difficulty of quitting. Yet when Congress prohibited most cigarettes with flavorings as part of the 2009 Family Smoking Prevention and Tobacco Control Act, it exempted the most important flavoring of all: menthol.
In 2009, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) created a group of scientists called the Tobacco Products Scientific Advisory Committee (TPSAC) to guide agency decision-making. The Tobacco Control Act directed TPSAC to take up the issue of menthol tobacco products as its first order of business. A TPSAC report on menthol was quickly challenged and thrown out by a district court judge sympathetic to the tobacco industry, preventing the FDA from moving forward. On January 15, 2016, a circuit court then reversed the earlier district court decision based on an appeal from the FDA, allowing FDA action on menthol.
On June 17, 2020, the African American Tobacco Control Leadership Council (AATCLC) and Action on Smoking and Health (ASH) filed a lawsuit against the FDA to compel the agency to fulfill its mandate by adding menthol to the list of prohibited characterizing flavors, therefore banning the sale of menthol cigarettes. Learn more about the lawsuit here.
Featured resources are below. Other relevant resources in right sidebar (desktop/tablet), or end of page (mobile).
An updated guide to policy considerations in regulating menthol tobacco products at state and local levels.
This webinar gives a brief overview of the U.S. landscape of menthol tobacco regulation and provides the backstory of San Francisco’s historic legislation prohibiting the sale of flavored tobacco products, including menthol. It also presents findings from a new research project that uses computer simulations to examine how restrictions on menthol cigarette sales and retailer density can affect tobacco use behavior.
A collection of resources created by the Tobacco Control Legal Consortium at the Public Health Law Center for state and local advocates to educate themselves on menthol tobacco products, and find out how they can effect change in the sale and consumption of menthol tobacco products in their communities.
This page features resource materials related to Tobacco Town Minnesota, a computational modeling project that explored the impact of menthol restrictions and retailer density reductions in six different Minnesota communities.
- NAATPN: The Menthol Issue
- African American Tobacco Control Leadership Council: Restrict The Sale of Mentholated Tobacco Products
- Truth Initiative: Tobacco Use in LGBT Communities