On April 29, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) announced it will prohibit menthol cigarettes and all flavors in cigars. Ending menthol flavoring in cigarettes and all flavors in cigars is a long overdue step forward in reducing youth tobacco initiation, helping adults quit and reducing tobacco-related cancer, as well as combating Big Tobacco’s targeting of Black communities, who consistently report the highest prevalence of menthol cigarette use.
The 2009 Family Smoking Prevention and Tobacco Control Act prohibited the use of flavors in cigarettes and cigarette smoke, but exempted menthol. However, Congress ordered FDA to consider the evidence regarding menthol cigarettes and gave FDA authority to prohibit menthol if “appropriate for public health.”
In 2013, 19 public health groups, including the American Cancer Society Cancer Action Network (ACS CAN) filed a Citizen’s Petition urging FDA to exercise its regulatory power to prohibit menthol in cigarettes. However, when FDA failed to respond to the Citizen’s Petition in a timely manner, public health groups, led by the African American Tobacco Control Leadership Council and Action on Smoking and Health, filed a federal lawsuit to compel the FDA to take action on menthol. Today’s welcome action from FDA is in response to that lawsuit.
The following is a statement from Lisa Lacasse, ACS CAN president:
“ACS CAN applauds the administration for announcing action to eliminate menthol in cigarettes and all flavors in cigars. With tobacco use being the number one cause of preventable death and responsible for one-third of all cancer deaths, we congratulate the FDA on taking this next step to remove Big Tobacco’s ability to lure new customers into a lifetime of addiction with menthol in cigarettes and all flavors in cigars. This decision will save lives from cancer caused by tobacco use.
“FDA’s long-awaited decision to take action to eliminate menthol flavoring in cigarettes and all flavors in cigars ends a decades-long deference to the tobacco industry, which has repeatedly demonstrated its willingness to profit from products that result in death. Eliminating menthol in cigarettes and all flavors in cigars will also help combat the health disparities intentionally driven by Big Tobacco's predatory practices to addict Black, LGBTQ and low-income communities for decades.
“Menthol has had a particularly disproportionate impact on African Americans with 85.5% of Blacks who smoke using menthol cigarettes, as compared to 46% of Hispanics who smoke, 39% of Asians who smoke and 28.7% of whites who smoke. FDA’s actions today send a clear message that Big Tobacco’s strategy to profit off addicting Black communities will no longer be tolerated.
“It is well documented that menthol makes it easier to start smoking and more difficult to quit. It is also the preferred flavor among youth, with roughly half of teens who smoke reporting menthol cigarette use. Furthermore, cigars are the second most popular tobacco product used by youth and currently the most popular tobacco product among Black youth. Eliminating menthol in cigarettes and all flavors in cigars will reduce youth initiation to help ensure kids never start smoking. We urge swift action to finalize this move. Any delay will result in more lives lost as a result of these products.
“ACS CAN has been urging FDA to prohibit menthol, including in cigarettes, and all flavors in cigars in our call for a total flavor prohibition in all tobacco products for years. ACS CAN is committed to continuing our work with Congress, state and local lawmakers to end the sale of menthol cigarettes and all other flavored tobacco products.”
In an April 29 news release,, Acting FDA Commissioner Janet Woodcock, MD, said:
“Banning menthol—the last allowable flavor—in cigarettes and banning all flavors in cigars will help save lives, particularly among those disproportionately affected by these deadly products. With these actions, the FDA will help significantly reduce youth initiation, increase the chances of smoking cessation among current smokers, and address health disparities experienced by communities of color, low-income populations, and LGBTQ+ individuals, all of whom are far more likely to use these tobacco products. Together, these actions represent powerful, science-based approaches that will have an extraordinary public health impact. Armed with strong scientific evidence, and with full support from the Administration, we believe these actions will launch us on a trajectory toward ending tobacco-related disease and death in the U.S.” Read the FDA press release here.