We write today to urge the FDA to remove menthol cigarettes from the market as quickly as possible.
Tobacco use is responsible for more than 400,000 deaths each year in the United States and is the leading preventable cause of death. A quarter of all cigarettes sold are menthol cigarettes, which studies show are preferred by younger smokers and new smokers. Since almost 9 out of 10 (88%) adult smokers began smoking before age 18, it will save lives to make smoking as unappealing as possible for teenagers and young adults. Menthol’s “cooling effect” does the opposite: it makes smoking as palatable (perhaps more palatable) to young people and nonsmokers as candy flavoring, which was banned in 2009 under the Family Smoking Prevention and Tobacco Control Act. According to the FDA’s Preliminary Scientific Evaluation of the Possible Public Health Effects of Menthol Versus Nonmenthol Cigarettes, “the weight of the evidence supports the conclusion that menthol in cigarettes is likely associated with increased initiation and progression to regular cigarette smoking.”
Not only are menthol cigarettes a starter product for youth, they are harder to quit because they are likely associated with: 1) “increased dependence,” and 2) “reduced success in smoking cessation, especially among African American menthol smokers.” For these reasons, we strongly agree with the FDA conclusions that “menthol cigarettes pose a public health risk above that seen with nonmenthol cigarettes.”
The Tobacco Products Scientific Advisory Committee (TPSAC), before which we testified, concluded over two years ago that “removal of menthol cigarettes from the marketplace would benefit public health in the United States.” A conservative modeling scenario published in a peer-reviewed medical journal estimated that over 320,000 deaths—most of them among African Americans—could be averted by 2050 had menthol been banned in 2011 as recommended.1 The FDA must not drag its feet any longer. The decision to extend the comment period an additional two months itself cost thousands of lives.
The Cancer Prevention and Treatment Fund represents the millions of American families whose lives have been touched by cancer, and our mission is to gather and scrutinize research to determine how programs and policies can reduce the incidence of cancer and improve treatment options for cancer patients. Our scientific analysis indicates that hundreds of thousands of lives will be saved when the FDA removes menthol cigarettes from the market, and we strongly urge the FDA to protect the public health by implementing a final rule to do so.
Cancer Prevention and Treatment Fund
- Levy, et. al., Modeling the future effects of a menthol ban on reduced smoking prevalence and deaths averted in the United States. American Journal of Public Health. 2011; 101(7):1236-1240. ▲