“The data is clear, menthol in cigarettes kills”: PHI Statement on FDA Action on Menthol in Cigarettes

Statement from Lynn Silver, MD, MPH, Director, PHI’s Prevention Policy  Program

“The Food and Drug Administration must respond by Thursday to a citizen petition originally filed in 2013 by the Public Health Law Center and eighteen co-signers calling on the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to add menthol to the list of prohibited characterizing flavors for cigarettes and cigarette smoke. In 2020 the African American Tobacco Control Leadership Council and Action on Smoking and Health filed a lawsuit against the FDA to compel the agency to fulfill its mandate and ban menthol cigarettes.

“California has already voted to ban all flavored tobacco products, including menthol, but implementation has been temporarily halted by Big Tobacco, which launched a ballot initiative to block the ban. This issue should have been resolved years ago at the federal level. The FDA’s own Tobacco Products Scientific Advisory Committee concluded a decade ago that menthol smokers are more likely to smoke their first cigarette within five minutes of waking. They concluded that menthol in cigarettes is associated with increased dependence and reduced success in smoking cessation, especially among African American smokers. Other research concluded that menthol cigarettes were responsible for 10.1 million extra smokers, three million life years lost and 378 000 premature deaths between 1980 and 2018. The data is clear, menthol in cigarettes kills.

“We strongly urge the Food and Drug Administration to do what clearly needs to be done and ban menthol in cigarettes and in all tobacco products, along with any other flavors. A decade of delay in protecting our citizens, and in particular our African American citizens to whom menthol products have been most intensively marketed, is unacceptable. It is time for the FDA to ban menthol and all other flavors in tobacco products.”

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