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HomeHealthUnveiling the Healthcare Benefits of Prohibiting Menthol Cigarettes

Unveiling the Healthcare Benefits of Prohibiting Menthol Cigarettes

The tobacco industry intentionally marketed menthol cigarettes and flavored cigars to kids, Black Americans, and other communities at enormous cost to health and lives. FDA’s new proposed rules end this practice and are based on precise science and evidence. Opponents claim that a menthol ban will lead to rampant smuggling of cigarette brands and that state governments will lose billions in cigarette sales taxes. These estimates are greatly exaggerated.

Reduces the Risk of Heart Disease

The FDA’s new rules on menthol cigarettes ban and flavored cigars are crucial in protecting public health, but there is still much work to be done. In 2009, Congress passed the Family Smoking Prevention and Tobacco Control Act, which instructed the FDA to ban candy, fruit, and other flavored tobacco products but leave menthol unchanged. Menthol is an essential ingredient in many cigarette brands, and research has found that it makes a product more appealing to youth smokers and increases their likelihood of becoming regular smokers. It also reduces the ability to quit, particularly among Black and Hispanic Americans. The combination of these factors has been shown to lead to more disease and death, as well as higher healthcare costs.

Reduces the Risk of Cancer

Tobacco manufacturers add menthol to their cigarettes to mask the harshness of smoking and make it more appealing to people who are new to the habit. Menthol-flavored cigarettes are trendy among youth and young adults, which makes it more likely that these individuals will progress to regular cigarette use. This progression to regular cigarette use increases the risk of disease and death from combusted tobacco, including cancer. It also makes it more difficult for those who try to quit. Consequently, menthol-flavored cigarettes have lower cessation rates than non-menthol cigarettes.

In contrast, studies examining flavored cigars find that these flavors have less of an effect on quit rates than do menthol cigarettes. In light of these findings, the FDA’s proposed product standard to prohibit menthol cigarettes and other flavored cigars would reduce health risks for smokers and help them quit, especially in underserved communities. While the tobacco industry may challenge the menthol ban, a convincing body of scientific evidence would support this proposal in a court case.

Reduces the Risk of Stroke

Cigarette smoking is a leading cause of stroke. In addition, smoking increases the risk of other tobacco-related diseases, including heart disease. A ban on menthol cigarettes would reduce the number of new smokers, especially among youth and young adults who are most likely to experiment with flavored products. This is because menthol decreases the harshness of smoking, making it more appealing to those who are just beginning to try cigarettes. This has been consistent across different studies with large, nationally representative populations. In addition, studies have found that menthol makes it harder to quit smoking. This is true for all smokers, but particularly for youth and young adult smokers who are more likely to smoke menthol cigarettes. 

Reduces the Risk of Diabetes

The sweet, minty flavor of menthol makes cigarettes more appealing to smokers, which can lead them to smoke more, inhale more profoundly, and take in more tar and other toxic chemicals. As a result, smokers who use mentholated cigarettes experience increased rates of cardiovascular disease and other smoking-related illnesses. Menthol cigarettes are trendy among members of underserved communities, who bear a disproportionate burden of tobacco-related morbidity and mortality. Research shows that a hypothetical ban on menthol cigarettes would reduce overall smoking and save healthcare costs over the long term. Specifically, it would significantly reduce deaths from heart disease, stroke, and cancer, as well as cut healthcare costs associated with diabetes. The proposed menthol ban is consistent with FDA’s mission to protect public health and prevent death and disease caused by tobacco. The Agency’s proposal is informed by evidence from peer-reviewed literature, tobacco industry submissions, analyses provided to TPSAC by nonvoting industry representatives, secondary data analysis, and CTP’s analyses of relevant large datasets. The Agency also considered feedback from the public on the issue of menthol cigarettes in developing this proposal.

Reduces the Risk of Obesity

Menthol cigarettes are responsible for 10.1 million extra smokers, 3 million lost life years, and 378,000 premature deaths between 1980 and 2018. These health harms can be eliminated if government agencies restrict the sale of all tobacco products that contain menthol. The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has proposed rules that would prohibit menthol cigarettes and flavored cigars, which the tobacco industry has historically marketed to kids, Black Americans, and other communities at enormous cost in terms of lives and health. If the FDA finalizes these new standards, removing menthol from cigarettes and flavored cigars could significantly reduce youth smoking rates and prevent future cigarette-related disease and death. Despite predictions by the tobacco industry that flavor restrictions will result in severe economic losses for local businesses, the fact is that communities across the United States and around the world have successfully implemented policies to restrict the sales of flavored tobacco products, including menthol. We hope that the FDA will move quickly to finalize these new standards. If it does, the evidence will be overwhelming that a menthol ban can save lives and help people quit smoking.

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