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Trump Administration Must Side with Kids Over Juul and Keep Menthol in Plan to Remove Flavored E-Cigarettes

Statement of Matthew L. Myers, President, Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids
November 03, 2019

WASHINGTON, DC — According to media reports, the Trump Administration is considering exempting menthol-flavored e-cigarettes from its plan to clear the market of all flavored e-cigarettes, despite the clear evidence that kids are attracted to menthol and mint flavors and that Juul is prepared to take advantage of such a loophole.

In September, the Trump Administration announced that it was going to take prompt action to clear the market of all flavored e-cigarettes because flavored products are fueling youth use. The September announcement was met with universal praise by public health leaders, but recent reports indicate the e-cigarette industry has lobbied intensely to get the Administration to weaken its proposal. If the Administration allows menthol or mint e-cigarettes to stay on the market, it will be siding with Juul over America’s kids and undercut its announced commitment to reversing the youth e-cigarette epidemic. Only Juul will benefit. In essence, it will amount to a get-out-of-jail-free card for Juul, the company that created the youth e-cigarette epidemic.

According to the 2019 National Youth Tobacco Survey, 64% of high school e-cigarettes users use mint or menthol flavors. Whether or not more kids currently use mint products than menthol products, decades of experience with youth use of cigarettes demonstrates that menthol appeals to kids. Over half of current youth smokers smoke menthol cigarettes, and the FDA has concluded that menthol increases the number of kids who try smoking and become regular smokers. There is no reason to believe that menthol e-cigarettes won’t be equally appealing to kids

If menthol or mint e-cigarettes are left on the market, it will create a giant loophole that Juul and other companies will exploit to continue marketing products that appeal to kids — and the evidence is clear that kids will shift to the flavored products that are left.

Juul has already signaled exactly what it plans to do by describing its popular mint products as a “menthol-based flavor.” The Wall Street Journal has also reported that Juul is already considering renaming its mint pods as a “menthol variant.” Thus, if menthol is exempted from the Administration’s policy, the most likely result is that kids will switch to menthol.

A menthol exclusion will not stem the youth epidemic, but it will protect the vast majority of Juul’s sales, especially if Juul is allowed to disguise and reclassify its mint products as menthol.

With 5 million kids now using e-cigarettes and this epidemic getting worse every day, the Administration must act now to protect kids, not Juul.