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FDA Authorization of Menthol-Flavored E-Cigarettes Is Troubling and Will Harm Kids

Statement of Yolonda C. Richardson, President and CEO, Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids
June 21, 2024

WASHINGTON, D.C. – The FDA’s decision today to authorize the sale of four menthol-flavored e-cigarettes made by NJOY – the first time the agency has authorized the sale of any flavored e-cigarettes – is deeply troubling given the extensive scientific evidence that menthol is a flavor that appeals to kids and the FDA’s repeated conclusions that flavored e-cigarettes, including menthol-flavored products, have driven youth e-cigarette use. It is especially concerning that the authorized products are made by a subsidiary of tobacco giant Altria, a company with a long history of marketing to kids and that today sells the most popular cigarette brand among kids (Marlboro). There is nothing in Altria’s history that indicates it will behave responsibly in marketing the products authorized today.

The scientific evidence demonstrates that menthol is a flavor that appeals to kids, and the tobacco industry has a long history of using menthol flavoring to attract and addict kids. According to the CDC, tobacco companies add menthol to tobacco products to make them seem less harsh and more appealing to young people. The CDC states that menthol also “enhances the effects of nicotine on the brain and can make tobacco products even more addictive.” According to the 2023 National Youth Tobacco Survey, 23.3% of high school e-cigarette users nationwide use menthol-flavored e-cigarettes. The FDA itself has found, in denying marketing applications for other menthol-flavored e-cigarettes, that “non-tobacco-flavored e-cigarettes, including menthol flavored e-cigarettes, have a known and substantial risk with regard to youth appeal, uptake and use.”

Today’s decision is even more troubling in light of the FDA’s failure to do its job and clear the market of illegal, unauthorized e-cigarettes, including many flavored products that attract kids, as a U.S. Senate Judiciary Committee hearing recently underscored. To end this youth addiction crisis, the FDA should deny all remaining marketing applications for flavored e-cigarettes, including menthol-flavored products, and the FDA and other agencies must step up their enforcement efforts to clear the market of unauthorized products.