Time to Ban Menthol | CASAColumbia

Time to Ban Menthol

Time to Ban Menthol

Published: February 2014

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Background

In 2009, Congress passed the Family Smoking Prevention and Tobacco Control Act, banning all flavorings from cigarettes except menthol, but granting the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) the authority to extend that ban to menthol. In 2011, the Tobacco Products Scientific Advisory Committee, which was tasked with investigating the issue of menthol and advising the FDA on how to regulate it, concluded that the removal of menthol cigarettes from the market would benefit the public health. In 2013, the FDA released its own report, drawing similar conclusions. Despite the consensus regarding the benefits of banning menthol, the FDA has yet to act.

Methods

CASAColumbia’s work for this white paper involved:

  1. An extensive review of the available literature on menthol, including tobacco industry marketing practices and menthol’s effect on tobacco initiation, addiction and smoking cessation
  2. Statistical analysis on the prevalence of current menthol cigarette use among key demographic groups

Results

The paper’s review of the evidence underscores the cause for concern with regard to menthol:

  • Menthol is an insidious ingredient in most cigarettes and other tobacco products. It eases the harsh sensations associated with smoking, making tobacco products more palatable and appealing and thereby facilitating their initiation and perpetuating their use
  • Menthol is used by the tobacco industry to target groups that historically were less apt to smoke—young people, blacks and women 
  • Menthol facilitates early initiation of tobacco products, increases the risks of addiction and makes cessation more difficult, particularly among black smokers
  • Research suggests that removing menthol from tobacco products could reduce smoking initiation rates and survey data indicate that many menthol smokers would attempt to quit smoking rather than switch to non-menthol products

This paper also presents research on the estimated effects of a menthol ban. Thirty-nine percent of menthol smokers report they would quit smoking altogether if menthol were no longer available. Conservative estimates project that 323,000 deaths could be averted by 2050 from a ban on menthol cigarettes alone.

Conclusions

Given the evidence, it is time for the FDA to exercise the authority granted by Congress and completely ban menthol additives from all cigarettes and other tobacco products. 

Recommendations

In light of the evidence, CASAColumbia joins several other health organizations in recommending that the FDA:

  • Completely ban menthol in cigarettes, both as a characterizing flavor and as an unadvertised additive  
  • Issue deeming regulations to assert jurisdiction over all tobacco products and then completely ban all flavorings including menthol in all other tobacco products, both as a characterizing flavor and as an unadvertised additive

 

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Further information

Read the press release.

Read the letters to the chief executives of Lorillard, R.J. Reynolds Tobaocco Company and Philip Morris.

Watch recording of press conference.

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