ADA Asks the FDA to Ban Menthol and Other Flavored Tobacco Products

Dentistry Today


The ADA has joined a coalition of 79 organizations asking the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to ban menthol and other non-tobacco flavored tobacco products such as e-cigarettes and cigars.

In a letter to acting FDA commissioner Janet Woodcock, MD, the coalition noted that the FDA has the authority to issue product standards ending the sale and manufacture of these products under the Family Smoking Prevention and Tobacco Control Act (TCA).

“There is no question that flavored products are particularly attractive to young people, leading to increased tobacco initiation,” the letter said, citing the FDA’s own findings that almost 81% of 12- to 17-year-olds who had ever used a tobacco product initiated their use with a flavored product.

In 2013, various organizations petitioned the FDA to ban menthol cigarettes. Following a lawsuit alleging unreasonable delays in responding to that petition, the FDA said it will issue a final response to that petition by April 29, 2021.

“The undersigned groups are united in urging FDA to grant the Citizen Petition and announce that it will issue a proposed rule to prohibit menthol as a characterizing flavor in cigarettes without delay,” the letter said.

“Menthol in cigarettes leads to greater initiation of smoking among youth, makes it harder to quit smoking, and has a disproportionate adverse impact on the health of Black Americans,” the letter continued.

The coalition also cited a 2011 Tobacco Products Scientific Advisory Committee (TPSAC) report that concluded that menthol cigarettes have an adverse effect on public health in the United States and that menthol cigarettes offer no public health benefits compared to other cigarettes.

Also, the TPSAC report found that “by 2020, about 17,000 premature deaths will occur and about 2.3 million people will have started smoking, beyond what would have occurred absent availability of menthol cigarettes.”

Two years after the TPSAC report, the letter continued, the FDA completed its own evaluation of menthol cigarettes and agreed that it is “likely that menthol cigarettes pose a public health risk above that seen with nonmenthol cigarettes.”

In 2018, Scott Gottlieb, who was commissioner of the FDA at the time, announced the agency’s intention to “advance a Notice of Proposed Rulemaking that would seek to ban menthol in combustible tobacco products, including cigarettes and cigars.”

The current coalition further noted multiple comments by public health, medical, and community organizations supporting such a ban as well as comments by law enforcement officials countering the tobacco industry’s claim that a ban would drive a “burgeoning illicit market” in these products.

“If FDA is to adhere to its longstanding commitment to entirely science-based decision-making, it must grant the Citizen Petition and inaugurate a regulatory process to prohibit menthol as a characterizing flavor in cigarettes,” the coalition’s letter said.

“Moreover, to prevent the industry from selling menthol cigarettes masquerading as cigars, FDA’s menthol rule should apply to menthol in cigars as well,” it continued. “Finally, FDA’s grant of the Citizen Petition on or before April 29 should be the first step toward a broader set of product standards prohibiting all non-tobacco flavors in tobacco products.”

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