FDA Proposes Ban on Menthol Cigarettes and Flavored Cigars

Also will restrict sale of e-cigarettes in c-stores
Photograph: Shutterstock

WASHINGTON -- The U.S. Food and Drug Administration has not followed through on an anticipated ban on flavored electronic cigarettes in convenience stores, but it is proposing bans on menthol in combustible cigarettes and cigars, along with a ban on flavored cigars.

FDA Commissioner Scott Gottlieb said today that the agency will allow c-stores to sell flavored e-cigarettes, vaping products and other electronic nicotine delivery systems (ENDS), but only in age-restricted areas.

This move does not include tobacco retailers and vape shops that prevent entry of persons under the age of 18.

The FDA will also seek to curtail the sale of flavored e-cigarettes and other ENDS products that are sold online without heightened age verification, and it will “pursue the removal from the market of those ENDS products that are marketed to children and/or appealing to youth.”

As expected, the FDA will also advance a notice of proposed rulemaking that would seek to ban menthol in combustible tobacco products. The agency’s research suggests “menthol use is likely associated with increased smoking initiation by youth and young adults,” said Gottlieb.

“There is an existing market for menthol cigarettes today, and banning them will only shift those sales to the black market,” Lyle Beckwith, NACS senior vice president of government relations, said in a statement issued by the c-store association following the FDA’s announcement “Black-market sellers of tobacco products do not check the ages of their purchasers, do not pay taxes on their sales, and sell more than just menthol cigarettes. NACS urges FDA to implement a plan to stop the current black market and prevent a new one before prohibiting a product that we know will result in large numbers of new black-market sales.”

The FDA also is proposing a policy to ban flavors in cigars. “Research shows that, compared to adults (25 or older) who smoke cigars, a higher proportion of youth who smoke cigars use flavored cigars,” Gottlieb said. “This data also indicates that eliminating flavors from cigars would likely help prevent cigar initiation by young people.”

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