FDA Investigates Menthol in Cigarettes

The US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) is gathering evidence to decide whether it should regulate menthol in cigarettes. It has issued an Advanced Notice of Proposed Rulemaking, which requests information from the public regarding the effects of menthol in cigarettes. The public comment lasts for 60 days before the FDA makes its decision.

“Menthol cigarettes raise critical public health questions,” said FDA Commissioner Margaret A. Hamburg, MD, in a statement. “The FDA is committed to a science-based approach that addresses the public health issues raised by menthol cigarettes, and public input will help us make more informed decisions about how best to tackle this important issue moving forward.”

Along with the announcement, the FDA released a preliminary report evaluating scientific evidence on the health effects of menthol in cigarettes. The report supported previous findings that the mint flavoring added to cigarettes makes it easier for young people to start smoking and harder for smokers to quit. Studies have also shown that African-American and Hispanic smokers are more likely to choose menthol cigarettes.

Menthol cigarettes tend to be “easier” to smoke — the added menthol produces a cooling sensation in the throat when the smoke is inhaled. It lessens the cough reflex and covers the dry feeling in the throat that smokers often have. People who smoke menthol cigarettes can inhale deeper and hold the smoke in longer. Studies have shown that people who smoke these cigarettes are less likely to try to quit and are less likely to succeed when they do try.

"The science is clear that menthol cigarettes pose a threat to public health, and we urge the FDA to take swift action to ban them,” said American Cancer Society Cancer Action Network (ACS CAN) President Chris Hansen. "We hope the effort to invite public comment on regulation of menthol cigarettes will only serve to strengthen the already compelling need to remove these products from the market, and to compel the FDA’s quick action."

ACS CAN is the nonprofit, nonpartisan advocacy affiliate of the American Cancer Society.

About one-fourth (27%) of all cigarettes sold in the US are flavored with menthol. Smoking – whether cigarettes are flavored or not – damages nearly every organ in the human body, is linked to at least 15 different cancers, and accounts for some 30 percent of all cancer deaths.

If you smoke and want help quitting, read the American Cancer Society’s Guide to Quitting Smoking. Studies show that people who try to quit are more successful when they get help.

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