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FDA to Propose Rule to Ban Menthol Cigarettes and Characterizing Flavored Cigars

Last week, the Food and Drug Administration announced it will issue a proposed rule within the next 12 months to ban menthol cigarettes and all characterizing flavors in cigars.  FDA expects to finalize the rule making process on menthol cigarettes and flavored cigars within 24 months.


FDA’s announcement comes after a long battle in the courts in which the public health and medical community challenged the Agency’s failure to take action on the regulation of menthol cigarettes. The ATS joined several public health and medical organizations in support of a citizen petition to force the FDA to remove menthol cigarettes from the market.  Most recently, the ATS joined over 70 other medical and public health organizations in a letter to FDA leadership urging the agency to finally take concrete action to ban menthol and other flavored tobacco products.  The letter summarized the extensive evidence-base documenting the detrimental role menthol and other flavors play in tobacco initiation and addiction. FDA’s announcement this week was in response to a court-ordered deadline to respond to the citizen petition calling for a ban on menthol cigarettes.


It is important to note that, when finalized, the FDA’s rule banning menthol cigarettes and characterizing flavored cigars will apply to manufacturers, sellers and distributors of tobacco products; it will not apply to individuals. The FDA does not have the authority or intent to ban the use or possession of menthol cigarettes and characterizing flavored cigars at the individual level.


“We are pleased that the FDA is finally taking action to remove menthol-flavored cigarettes from the market, said ATS Tobacco Action Committee Chair Michelle Eakin, PhD. “When Congress first passed the Tobacco Control Act in 2009, it immediately banned flavored cigarettes from the U.S. market, but exempted menthol cigarettes. It is very exciting to finally see these harmful products removed.”


“There is no question that menthol cigarettes are harmful and disproportionately target low-income individuals and Black Americans,” said ATS Tobacco Action Committee Vice Chair Hasmeena Kathuria, MD. “This is an incredibly important step to improve health equity and we are pleased that the FDA is finally taking action to remove menthol cigarettes from the market.”


The ATS also strongly supports the FDA’s proposal to remove candy-flavored cigars.  Like menthol products, flavored cigars pose a unique danger to America’s youth. Flavored tobacco products have been a key strategy in Big Tobacco’s marketing arsenal to initiate new smokers at an early age.

Last Reviewed: May 2021