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Pallone Writes in Strong Support of FDA’s Proposal to Prohibit Menthol-Flavored Cigarettes and Flavored Cigars

Aug 4, 2022
Press Release
“I commend FDA for proposing these critical tobacco product standards that, if finalized, would be one of the most impactful actions ever taken to reduce tobacco-related disease and death.”

Energy and Commerce Committee Chairman Frank Pallone, Jr. (D-NJ) submitted a comment letter today in strong support of the Food and Drug Administration’s (FDA) proposed rules to prohibit menthol as a characterizing flavor in cigarettes and to prohibit all characterizing flavors in cigars. The agency proposed the rules earlier this year to reduce the appeal of cigarettes and cigars, particularly among young people, and improve public health outcomes. 

“At a time when the United States continues to face a dangerous youth tobacco epidemic, it is imperative that FDA act urgently by utilizing its tobacco product standard authority to ban flavored tobacco products that attract kids, hook new users, and lead to tobacco-related disease and death,” Pallone wrote to FDA Commissioner Califf. “If finalized, these regulations will save lives and would be a historic public health achievement that will narrow health inequities and improve health outcomes for future generations. I commend FDA for proposing these important tobacco product standards and urge FDA to finalize the rules without delay.”

Menthol cigarettes are the only flavored cigarettes available on the market in the United States. In 2019, there were more than 18.5 million smokers of menthol cigarettes nationwide and menthol cigarettes made up over one-third of all domestic cigarette sales. Studies have shown menthol makes it easier to start smoking by creating a cooling sensation in the throat and airways, making smoking less harsh and easier to inhale. Once initiated, those who smoke menthol cigarettes also show greater signs of nicotine dependence and are less likely to successfully quit smoking than those who smoke nonmenthol cigarettes.

Big Tobacco has aggressively marketed menthol cigarettes to specific populations, particularly Black Americans and young people. In fact, half of young people between the ages 12 and 17 who tried smoking started with menthol cigarettes, and more than eight in 10 Black Americans who smoke use menthol cigarettes. Tragically, Black Americans have the highest rates of tobacco-related cancer of all racial and ethnic groups and are more likely to die from tobacco-related diseases.  

“Eliminating the use of menthol flavoring in cigarettes will save lives and improve health equity,” Pallone continued. “Research has found that smoking rates could decline by 15 percent as early as five years following the implementation of a ban, due to menthol smokers quitting.  In addition, there is evidence from other countries like Canada, where menthol cigarettes were banned in 2017, that smokers who previously smoked menthol cigarettes were more likely to try to quit than nonmenthol smokers.”

Pallone also wrote in strong support of FDA’s proposed rule to prohibit all characterizing flavors in cigar products, noting their appeal and accessibility among young people. 

“I am pleased the agency is proposing to prohibit all characterizing flavors in cigars. According to the 2021 National Youth Tobacco Survey, cigars are the second most popular tobacco product used by kids and 44 percent of youth cigar smokers report smoking flavored cigars,” Pallone wrote. “Cigars are often cheaper than other tobacco products, including cigarettes, and are readily available in many flavors, such as kid-appealing flavors like chocolate, cherry, and grape. Data has shown that nearly 50 percent of all cigars sold in the first half of 2020 were flavored.”

Read the full letter HERE