Tobacco

Menthol Cigarette Ban Delayed

Expected publication date for final rules on banning menthol cigarettes, flavored cigars pushed to March
Menthol cigarettes
Photograph: Shutterstock

The expected publication date for final rules on banning menthol cigarettes and flavored cigars has been pushed to March 2024, according to the Biden administration’s Fall 2023 Unified Agenda.

The agenda, a non-binding document released twice a year that describes each federal agency’s upcoming regulatory plans, was released Wednesday. It also said the Food and Drug Administration planned to issue a notice of proposed rule making (NPRM) in April to limit the nicotine level of certain tobacco products.

Effective dates for the rules will be included in the final published version of the regulation and will be at least a year from when the rules are published.

In the Spring Unified Agenda, released in June, the proposed rule to lower the nicotine levels in cigarettes was set to be published in December, while the menthol cigarette and flavored cigar rules were expected to be published in August.

When those August deadlines passed, the FDA said in September the rules remained at the “very top” of its priorities. “Evidence shows that flavored tobacco products appeal to youth and also shows that youth may be more likely to initiate tobacco use with such products,” the FDA told CSP Daily News at the time.

The proposals have received a mix of support and pushback. The FDA received more than 250,000 public comments on the menthol cigarette and flavored cigar bans.

The convenience-store industry has urged the White House to reconsider the menthol cigarette ban amid concerns of the creation of a black market and the negative effect it would have on small businesses. Menthol cigarettes account for 34% of cigarette sales in c-stores today, according to data from the National Association of Convenience Stores. Collectively, menthol cigarettes and flavored cigars accounted for $23.7 billion in sales last year, NACS said.

“History has proven that prohibition of a legal product that has an established user base doesn’t work and has negative consequences for our communities,” Anna Blom, NACS director of government relations, said.

The Washington Post reported Tuesday that the proposal faced fierce lobbying from critics who warned that a prohibition could anger some Black smokers who favor the products and could hurt Biden’s reelection prospects.  

The FDA first announced the proposed rules to ban menthol cigarettes and flavored cigars in April 2022. In October, the rules reached the final stage of review after being submitted to the Office of Management and Budget. 

Want to learn more about the tobacco category? Check out our event CRU in Nashville Feb. 28-March 1, 2024. Sponsors can gain 15 one-to-one meetings with qualified retailers.

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