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How to Submit Comments on the FDA’s Proposed Menthol Ban

NATO encourages retailers, wholesalers, adult consumers and more to weigh in on menthol cigarette, flavored cigar regulations
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LAKEVILLE, Minn. — The National Association of Tobacco Outlets (NATO) is encouraging association member retailers, their employees, legal age adult consumers and wholesalers to submit comments to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration's Center for Tobacco Products on the proposed product standard regulations that would ban menthol as a flavor in cigarettes and prohibit characterizing flavors in cigars. Since the FDA issued one set of regulations for banning menthol in cigarettes and another set of regulations for prohibiting flavors in cigars, separate comments will need to be submitted for each of the regulations.       

The process to submit comments to the FDA is simple and straightforward. Accompanying this column are separate documents which list the steps to submit comments and talking points to consider including in comments. While industry members along with NATO have requested that the FDA extend the period to submit comments, the current deadline for comment submission is July 5. This means that comments can be submitted now, and the information below will assist you in submitting comments.

Proposed FDA Regulation Banning Menthol in Cigarettes

The ban on menthol in cigarettes applies to every kind of cigarette, regardless of size and nicotine strength. Moreover, the ban would extend to roll-your-own tobacco and heated tobacco products. This means that only tobacco-flavored cigarettes and tobacco-flavored roll-your-own and heated tobacco products could be sold if this regulation goes into effect.

Also, the FDA has the authority to regulate components and parts of a cigarette. Components or parts are defined as something that changes the cigarette or is necessary to smoke the cigarette.  So, the ban on menthol as an ingredient would also apply to components and parts such as cigarette filters, filter tips, wrappers, RYO rolling papers, as well as products sold separately such as flavor cards that could be inserted into a pack to add menthol flavor to cigarettes, or drops or oils which could be injected into a cigarette to add menthol flavor.

Proposed Regulation Prohibiting Characterizing Flavors in Cigars

The second proposed regulation would prohibit the use of any characterizing flavor, except tobacco flavor, in all cigars. The FDA defines a “characterizing flavor” as having one or more of the attributes:

  • An artificial or natural flavor that is added to the cigar or is an ingredient in the cigar.
  • A taste, aroma or cooling sensation that a person can sense when smelling or smoking a cigar.
  • A description on a package or in an advertisement that references the product as having a flavor or being flavored.
  • Any other means by which the cigar imparts a flavor or has a flavor.

Under the proposed regulation, the characterizing flavors that would be banned include, but are not limited to, the following: Herb/spice, cinnamon, cocoa/chocolate, strawberry, pineapple, cherry, grape, vanilla , orange, clove, licorice, mint, menthol, coconut and coffee.

The regulation would allow cigars that only have a tobacco flavor to be sold. This means that even premium cigars could not have a characterizing flavor. As with cigarettes, components and parts of a cigar could not have a flavor either, which would include the tobacco in a cigar, the filter, and the wrapper.

In addition, the FDA asked for comments from the public on whether the agency should extend the flavor ban to hookah tobacco and traditional pipe tobacco.

See the accompanying documents for the step-by-step instructions on how to submit comments to the FDA plus suggested talking points.

Will Submitting Comments to the FDA Make a Difference?

The most direct and simple answer to this question is “yes”. The FDA is required to seek public comments on proposed regulations just like it is doing now on the regulations that would ban menthol cigarettes, menthol roll-your-own cigarette tobacco and flavors in cigars. Also, the FDA staff is required to read every comment that is submitted. For these reasons, it is very important that retailers, their employees, adult customers, and wholesalers all submit comments to the FDA. 

Thomas A. Briant is the executive director of NATO, a tobacco retailing association based in Lakeville, Minn. Reach him at info@natocentral.org.

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