Will the F.D.A. Ban Menthol in Cigarettes?

Joel Eisenberg

In what is being heralded by supporters, a move is afoot to save the next generation of potential smokers.

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Author’s Note

This article is based on federal government and accredited media reports. All linked information within this article is fully-attributed to the following outlets: American Lung Association, Wikipedia.org, NPR.org, The Federal Trade Commission, and The New York Times.

Introduction

The American Lung Association (ALA) defines menthol as the following: Menthol is a chemical naturally found in peppermint and other mint plants, but it can also be made in a lab. First added to tobacco in the 1920s and 1930s, menthol reduces the harshness of cigarette smoke and the irritation from nicotine. Under the 2009 Family Smoking Prevention and Tobacco Control Act that gives the Food and Drug Administration authority over tobacco products, menthol is the only characterizing flavor allowed in cigarettes in sufficient quantity to be a "characterizing flavor."

The ALA webpage goes on to state that methol‘s soothing and cooling effects have been marketed to appeal to new smokers, young smokers, and ethnic groups. Today, according to the ALA, more than 18.9 million people currently smoke menthol cigarettes.

On April 28, 2022, news broke that the F.D.A. is looking to ban menthol from all cigarette products. Let us explore further.

On Menthol and Nicotine

For a comprehensive overview of menthol, including its chemical properties, click here for the product’s Wikipedia page.

According to an October, 2021 article from NPR, “Cigarette Sales Went Up Last Year For the First Time in 20 Years,” writer Scott Neuman points to COVID-19 as the primary reason: For the first time in two decades, cigarette sales increased last year during the COVID-19 pandemic, as tobacco companies also beefed up spending to promote their products. The Federal Trade Commission, in its annual Cigarette Report, said that manufacturers sold 203.7 billion cigarettes in 2020, up from 202.9 billion in 2019 — an increase of 0.4%.

The marketing on the part of tobacco companies is reported to be increasing still further in 2022.

The recent news of the F.D.A.’s attempt to ban menthol, which has been blamed for several lung-related issues according to the ALA, was met with approval in many quarters.

As excerpted from the New York Times, in its article entitled “F.D.A. Moves to Ban Menthol Cigarettes,” writer Christina Jewett reports: The Food and Drug Administration on Thursday announced a plan to ban sales of menthol-flavored cigarettes in the United States, a measure many public health experts hailed as the government’s most meaningful action in more than a decade of tobacco control efforts. The ban would most likely have the deepest impact on Black smokers, nearly 85 percent of whom use menthol cigarettes, compared with 29 percent of white smokers, according to a government survey.

Menthol, as Jewett noted, is presently a legal product in the United States, and largely considered among the most hazardous to one’s health.

Conclusion

As mentioned, the move to eliminate menthol from cigarette (and cigar) products has been widely applauded. However, to the nearly 19 million last measured who habitually smoke menthol-based products, time will determine the impact on the marketplace should the effort come to pass.

Thank you for reading.

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I am an award-winning author, screenwriter for film and television, and producer. My mission on News Break is to share socially important perspectives on both culture and pop-culture. Member of PEN America, and the WGA.

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