Jul. 23 2013
WASHINGTON, DC – The Food and Drug Administration’s strong scientific conclusions today regarding the harmful impact of menthol cigarettes on the nation’s health should prompt the FDA to move as quickly as possible to ban menthol cigarettes in the United States.
The FDA today took the first step in the regulatory process by inviting public comment to inform its decisions about what action to take regarding menthol cigarettes and announcing that it is funding additional research relevant to regulating menthol cigarettes. It is critical that these actions be part of a serious and expeditious regulatory process that leads to a ban on menthol cigarettes and not part of an effort to delay action. The key is not what the FDA announced today, but how quickly the agency acts to develop a formal rule banning menthol cigarettes based on the powerful scientific evidence in the report it released today.
After an exhaustive review of the scientific evidence, the FDA released a 153-page report that reached three key conclusions regarding the health impact of menthol cigarettes. It found that menthol cigarettes lead to 1) increased smoking initiation among youth and young adults; 2) greater addiction; and 3) decreased success in quitting smoking. “These findings, combined with the evidence indicating that menthol’s cooling and anesthetic properties can reduce the harshness of cigarette smoke and the evidence indicating that menthol cigarettes are marketed as a smoother alternative to nonmenthol cigarettes, make it likely that menthol cigarettes pose a public health risk above that seen with nonmenthol cigarettes,” the FDA’s report concluded.
The FDA’s report independently affirms the findings of the agency’s Tobacco Products Scientific Advisory Committee, which in March 2011 issued a report that concluded, “Removal of menthol cigarettes from the marketplace would benefit public health in the United States.”
We now have two exhaustive scientific reports that leave no doubt that menthol cigarettes have a profound adverse impact on public health in the United States, resulting in more smoking and more death and disease from tobacco use. The FDA has an obligation to act on this scientific evidence and move quickly to ban menthol cigarettes in the U.S. These reports provide more than adequate scientific evidence for the FDA to take immediate action.
The FDA should also move forward quickly with its plans to conduct a youth education campaign focused on preventing and reducing tobacco use, including menthol cigarettes.
Tobacco use is the number one cause of preventable death in the United States, killing more than 400,000 people and costing $96 billion in health care bills each year. Today’s FDA report makes clear that banning menthol cigarettes is a critical step in reducing tobacco’s devastating toll on our nation.