FDA to crack down on menthol cigarettes, flavored vapes

Irving Hamilton
November 15, 2018

After more than a week of reports that the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) was planning a massive ban on e-cigarettes in convenience stores across the country to help curb the epidemic in minors, the agency announced Thursday that it will allow stores to continue selling the products from closed-off areas and, instead, it will look to outlaw menthol cigarettes and flavored cigars. Scott Gottlieb pledged to ban menthol from cigarettes, in what could be a major step to further push down USA smoking rates.

The FDA has been taken earlier steps to investigate the marketing of e-cigarettes by a number of companies, including the market leader, Juul Labs Inc. of a San Francisco.

E-cigarettes vaporize a liquid containing nicotine, the addictive stimulant that gives smokers a rush. "I don't want to create a situation where the combustible products have features that make them more attractive than the non-combustible products or a situation where those who now use menthol-flavored cigarettes might find it less attractive to switch completely to an e-cigarette", he note.

The cigarette smoking rate is even lower among high school students - about 9 percent, according to the latest figures.

E-cigarettes have been a divisive topic in the public health community. Some focus on the potential benefit of shifting lifelong smokers to less harmful nicotine products, while others fear it will create a new generation addicted to nicotine. The FDA now bans sales of e-cigarettes and tobacco products to those under 18. Today's restrictions on flavors are interim measures that companies must follow before submitting detailed plans before the deadline.

Battery-powered e-cigarettes are more popular among teens than regular smokes and are considered safer.

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Gottlieb's proposal for e-cigarette flavorings also exempts menthol.

Health advocates say a menthol ban would have greater impact on the health of Americans, but it would likely take years to put in place.

"The changes I seek would protect kids by having all flavored ENDs products - other than tobacco, mint and menthol flavors or non-flavored products - sold in age-restricted, in-person locations and, if sold online, under heightened practices for age verification", Gottlieb said.

Menthol cigarettes represent more than 30 percent of US cigarette volumes and approximately 55 percent of British American Tobacco Plc's USA volumes, through its Newport brand, according to a research note from AllianceBernstein earlier this week.

Aside from the youth prevention standpoint, the FDA signaled flavored tobacco was on its radar when it issued an advance notice of proposed rulemaking (ANPRM) on March 20 seeking comments, data, research results, or other information related to the role that flavors, including menthol, play in tobacco product use.

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