Regulations on the use of menthol in tobacco products have been on the table since the FDA was granted oversight of the category with the 2009 Tobacco Control Act. The rule officially banned the use of flavors in cigarettes, but it exempted menthol. Instead, the agency was tasked to examine the effects of menthol by convening a Tobacco Product Scientific Advisory Committee (TPSAC).

In 2011, that TPSAC issued a report recommending the FDA ban menthol in cigarettes, prompting the agency to issue an Advance Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (ANPRM) on menthol in 2013. However, Reynolds American Inc. and Lorillard Tobacco Co. successfully sued to block the agency from using that key TPSAC report.

After that, the FDA seemed to have moved focus to other areas such as deeming—until its July 2017 announcement that it plans to issue an ANPRM seeking public comments on flavors, specifically calling out menthol.

“[Menthol action] started in 2009,” said Modi of RBC. “We’re in 2017-2018 and we still haven’t gotten a final resolution. My sense is that they’re still studying it.”