FDA makes landmark decision on menthol cigarettes, takes small steps in e-cigarette use

Published on December 3, 2018

Updated on January 14, 2019

Contact: Lisa Berry Edwards
(703) 519-2107

ALEXANDRIA, Va. —The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) announced new regulations targeted toward reducing use of flavored e-cigarettes, cigars and cigarettes among youth.

On November 16, FDA Commissioner Scott Gottlieb unveiled the FDA’s proposal to ban menthol in combustible tobacco products. Historically, use of menthol tobacco products has been highest among African-Americans and youth. According to recent data, 54 percent of youth smokers use menthol cigarettes—and the rate is even higher among African-American youth at 70 percent. The new regulation attempts to address these disparities.  

“People who smoke menthol cigarettes are more likely to start smoking regularly. And once they start, it’s harder to quit,” said Carolyn Aldigé, founder and CEO of the Prevent Cancer Foundation®. “Banning the use of menthol in cigarettes is an important step in reducing smoking rates—and ultimately reducing cancer risk—especially among youth and minorities who are targeted by these products most.”

Gottlieb also announced the FDA’s new strategies to combat the rising rates of youth e-cigarette use. With this new regulation, flavored e-cigarette products can only be sold in age-restricted areas of stores or online through sites with heightened age verification practices. These regulations do not apply to mint, menthol and tobacco-flavored products, which will still be available as currently sold.

Gottlieb’s announcement comes on the heels of the 2018 National Youth Tobacco Survey (NYTS), which revealed a 78 percent increase in e-cigarette use among high school students and a 48 percent increase among middle school students.

“These data show that the state of e-cigarette use among youth in this country is dire, and we need to take strong action to protect children and teens from nicotine addiction and other dangers of e-cigarettes,” said Carolyn Aldigé. “This action from the FDA is a start, but more must be done to keep these products off the market and out of kids’ hands.”

The FDA still needs to issue a notice of proposed rulemaking (NPRM) and hold a public comment period before the regulations take effect. No notice had been filed as of date of publication.

The Prevent Cancer Foundation® strongly supports legislation that protects kids and teens from tobacco products. We commend the FDA for banning menthol cigarettes and flavored cigars, but there is still more to be done to deter young people from using e-cigarettes. We hope that the FDA continues to address the e-cigarette sales to protect the health of youth across the U.S.

Sign up to get the latest about cancer prevention and early detection directly in your inbox.