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Ending the sale of all flavored tobacco products – including flavored e-cigarettes, menthol cigarettes and flavored cigars – is critical to stopping the youth e-cigarette epidemic and creating the first tobacco-free generation. There is a growing movement by policymakers at all levels to prohibit the sale of flavored tobacco products. 

The tobacco industry has a long history of targeting kids with flavored products, and the evidence is clear that flavors play a key role in youth initiation and continued use of tobacco products. Flavors improve the taste and mask the harshness of tobacco products, making it easier for kids to try these products and ultimately become addicted.

THE YOUTH E-CIGARETTE EPIDEMIC

Flavored products, especially Juul, have fueled the youth e-cigarette epidemic, which is addicting a generation of kids and threatens to reverse the decades-long progress our nation has made in reducing youth tobacco use.

According to the latest data from the 2021 National Youth Tobacco Survey, 11.3% of high school students and 2.8% of middle school students – over 2 million kids altogether – were current e-cigarette users.

The latest data also shows the following:

  • Kids aren’t just experimenting with e-cigarettes. Many are using these products most days or every day, a sure sign they’re becoming addicted. Over 40% of high school e-cigarette users are vaping at least 20 days a month and over a quarter are daily users. In total, 500,000 middle and high school students are vaping every single day.
  • Flavored products are driving this epidemic. In fact, 85% of youth e-cigarette users use flavored products. 
  • In the past two years, kids have shifted dramatically to disposable and menthol e-cigarettes, two categories of products that were left on the market under current federal restrictions. These shifts show that the only way to end this crisis is to eliminate all flavored e-cigarettes.

E-cigarettes pose serious risks to the health of young people. The U.S. Surgeon General has concluded that youth use of nicotine in any form, including e-cigarettes, is unsafe. Nicotine is highly addictive and can harm adolescent brain development, particularly the parts of the brain responsible for attention, memory and learning. The Surgeon General also found that using nicotine in adolescence can increase risk of future addiction to other drugs. In addition, studies have found that young people who use e-cigarettes are more likely to become smokers, and many are low-risk youth who would not have otherwise smoked cigarettes.

Juul and other e-cigarettes deliver massive doses of nicotine, putting youth users at greater risk of addiction. Each Juul pod (cartridge of nicotine) delivers as much nicotine as a pack of 20 cigarettes.

MENTHOL CIGARETTES TARGET YOUTH, AFRICAN AMERICANS

There is also more than enough evidence to end the sale of menthol cigarettes. Menthol cools and numbs the throat and reduces the harshness of tobacco smoke, making menthol cigarettes more appealing for kids who are starting to smoke. Over half of youth smokers use menthol cigarettes. A comprehensive FDA scientific analysis, issued in 2013, concluded that menthol cigarettes 1) increase smoking initiation and progression to regular smoking among youth and young adults; 2) increase nicotine dependence (addiction); and 3) reduce success in quitting smoking.

For decades, the tobacco industry has targeted kids, Black Americans and other groups with marketing for menthol cigarettes, and the impact has been devastating, especially on the health of Black Americans.

In the 1950s, less than 10% of Black smokers used menthol cigarettes. Today, about 85% of Black smokers smoke menthols. Today, tobacco use remains the leading cause of preventable death among Black Americans. It claims 45,000 Black lives each year. Black Americans die at higher rates than other groups from tobacco-related diseases such as cancer, heart disease and stroke. And lung cancer kills more Black Americans than any other type of cancer.

From 1980 to 2018, menthol cigarettes were responsible for 1.5 million extra smokers, 157,000 smoking-related premature deaths and 1.5 million excess life-years lost in the African American community.

Ending the sale of menthol cigarettes isn’t just a health issue, it’s a social justice issue. It will stop the tobacco industry’s predatory marketing and save lives, especially Black lives.

A GROWING MOVEMENT TO BAN FLAVORED TOBACCO

There are growing efforts by policymakers at all levels to prohibit the sale of all flavored tobacco products. The U.S. House of Representatives on Feb. 28, 2020, passed H.R. 2339, the "Protecting American Lungs and Reversing the Youth Tobacco Epidemic Act." This bill would prohibit all flavored tobacco products – including flavored e-cigarettes, menthol cigarettes and flavored cigars. Among other things, the bill also makes critical investments in initiatives to prevent kids from using tobacco products, including e-cigarettes, and help more smokers quit, especially in medically underserved communities.

States and cities are leading the way in taking action. In 2018, San Francisco became the first major U.S. city to end the sale of all flavored tobacco products when voters overwhelmingly upheld the city’s law against a multi-million-dollar tobacco industry ballot challenge. States and cities taking recent action include:

  • Massachusetts in November 2019 became the first state to pass a law prohibiting the sale of flavored tobacco products, including flavored e-cigarettes and menthol cigarettes. California followed suit in August 2020, but implementation is pending due to a referendum challenge by the tobacco industry.
  • New York, New Jersey and Rhode Island have also ended the sale of flavored e-cigarettes, while Maryland and Utah restrict the sale of some flavored e-cigarettes.
  • At the local level, over 330 localities restrict the sale of flavored tobacco products.


Last Updated April 11, 2022