FDA’s Proposal to Prohibit Menthol… | Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids
sign up

FDA’s Proposal to Prohibit Menthol Cigarettes, Flavored Cigars Will Save Lives and Should be Implemented Quickly; FDA Must Do More to Reverse Youth E-Cigarette Epidemic

Statement of Matthew L. Myers, President, Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids
November 15, 2018

WASHINGTON, DC – The proposals by the FDA today to prohibit menthol cigarettes and flavored cigars have enormous potential to drive down tobacco use and the death and disease it causes in the United States. If adopted, these two proposals will have a greater impact in reducing tobacco use by youth and the African-American community than any regulatory measure ever undertaken by the federal government. However, the FDA must move as quickly as possible to propose, finalize and implement the necessary regulations. If the FDA does so, it will be truly historic action to stop the tobacco industry from using flavored products to target and addict children, African Americans and other groups. We commend Commissioner Scott Gottlieb and the FDA for their leadership in advancing these life-saving proposals.

The FDA’s actions on electronic cigarettes are a step forward, but don’t go far enough. The FDA deserves praise for focusing the nation’s attention on the epidemic of youth e-cigarette use, and for beginning to attack the problem, but the FDA’s plan does not go far enough at this time. It stops short of banning the flavors that have made e-cigarettes so popular with kids. Menthol and mint flavors will remain widely available despite new data being released today that shows 51 percent of high school students who currently use e-cigarettes use menthol- or mint-flavored products. With these flavors still widely available, it is doubtful that this plan will stem the tide of youth e-cigarette use and it will be critical for the FDA to quickly supplement the steps announced today. In addition, the Juul device itself and other e-cigarettes that deliver exceptionally high levels of nicotine will continue to be sold in convenience stores and gas stations.

It is also a positive step that the FDA recognizes the importance of curtailing marketing to kids, but it is critical that the FDA exercise its authority to remove products that are marketed in ways that appeal to kids. In addition, the FDA should stop sales of all flavored e-cigarette products that have not been subject to public health review by the agency and enforce rules prohibiting the sale of new or changed products without prior FDA review. By enforcing this pre-market review requirement, the FDA can prevent manufacturers from continuing to introduce products that appeal to kids.

New Data Show Skyrocketing Youth E-Cigarette Use

New data being released today by the CDC and the FDA underscores that youth e-cigarette use has reached epidemic levels and that flavors are a critical factor – including the menthol and mint flavors that the FDA will leave widely available. Key findings from the 2018 National Youth Tobacco Survey:

  • Between 2017 and 2018, current (past 30 day) e-cigarette use increased by 78 percent among high school students (to 20.8 percent) and by 48 percent among middle school students (to 4.9 percent). In 2018, more than 3.6 million middle and high school students were e-cigarette users – an alarming increase of 1.5 million students in just one year.
  • Among high school e-cigarette users, from 2017 to 2018, current use of any flavored e-cigarettes increased from 60.9 percent to 67.8 percent, and current use of menthol- or mint-flavored e-cigarettes increased from 42.3 percent to 51.2 percent.
  • The number of high school students reporting frequent use of e-cigarettes increased significantly, underscoring that many kids aren’t just experimenting with e-cigarettes but using them regularly and increasing their risk of nicotine addiction. The proportion of current e-cigarette users who reported use on 20 or more of the past 30 days increased from 20 percent in 2017 to 27.7 percent in 2018. That means more than a quarter of all high school e-cigarette users – over 840,000 teens – use e-cigarettes frequently.
  • The increase in e-cigarette use has driven a 38 percent increase in use of any tobacco product among high school students (from 19.6 percent in 2017 to 27.1 percent in 2018). This reverses a decline in recent years.

E-cigarette use poses serious risks to the health of young people. A 2016 Surgeon General’s report concluded that youth use of nicotine in any form, including e-cigarettes, is unsafe, can cause addiction and can harm the developing adolescent brain. A January 2018 report by the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering and Medicine concluded, “There is substantial evidence that e-cigarette use increases risk of ever using combustible tobacco cigarettes among youth and young adults.”