April 19, 2024

The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) on Thursday announced its proposed rule on product standards to ban menthol flavoring in cigarettes and non-tobacco flavors in cigars.

The Biden administration believes this action has the potential to “significantly reduce disease and death” from smoking by making it less likely that young people will want to experiment with smoking, which is the leading cause of preventable deaths in the U.S. President Biden first announced the proposed ban a year ago.

“The proposed rules would help prevent children from becoming the next generation of smokers and help adult smokers quit,” Health and Human Services Secretary Xavier Becerra said in a statement.

Menthol imparts a minty flavor to a range of consumer products, and in cigarettes and cigars, its use can make tobacco more appealing. The FDA noted in a fact sheet that it also “interacts with nicotine in the brain to enhance nicotine’s addictive effects and makes it more difficult for people to quit smoking.”

According to the FDA, over half a million young people in the U.S. use cigars with flavorings like cocoa, strawberry or fruit punch, and in recent years, each day more of the nation’s youth have tried a cigar than a cigarette. Under the new rule proposed by the FDA, these flavors would be banned. In 2009, the FDA banned other flavored cigarettes.   

The FDA’s enforcement of the rule would not target individual consumers; its rule is intended to confront the industry — manufacturers, distributors and retailers, for instance.

From May 4 through July 5, the public will be able to comment on the rules, and the agency will also hold public listening sessions on June 13 and June 15. After the public comments have been considered, the FDA will make its final decision on whether to issue the product standards. If finalized and implemented, it could also face legal challenges from the industry.  

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