Menthol and Other Flavored Products
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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).
Factsheet describing the tobacco industry’s manipulation and abuse of targeted, at-risk populations and its use of front groups, distortion, and corporate giving to mask disreputable corporate conduct.
A ban on the manufacture and sale of menthol tobacco products like the one recently proposed by the FDA will advance public health, improve health equity, and save and improve Black lives. It also causes the tobacco industry to lose a lot of money, so the industry and their affiliates have attempted to distract and scare communities with misinformation. This document addresses the industry’s age-old tricks so we can stay focused on the certain benefits of a menthol ban.
Supplement to FDA citizen petition, "Prohibit Menthol as a Characterizing Flavoring of Cigarettes and Cigarette Smoke” Docket No. FDA-2013-P-0435.
Updated resource showcasing examples from select U.S. jurisdictions that restrict the sale of flavored tobacco products, including excerpts from legislation and information on legal challenges.