On April 29, 2021, the Food and Drug Administration announced it's working toward issuing proposed product standards within the next year to ban menthol as a characterizing flavor in cigarettes.

Any actions by the FDA that restrict the sale and distribution, or establish menthol product standards, will require formal rulemaking including public notice and comment. There is no required deadline or timeline for the FDA to act.

Where We Stand:

 

  • We share the common goal of moving adult smokers from cigarettes to potentially less harmful alternatives, but prohibition does not work.
  • We believe the science and evidence does not support a ban on menthol cigarettes.
  • Criminalizing menthol will lead to serious unintended consequences, including an illicit market, an impact to state and federal excise taxes and Master Settlement Agreement payments, and to jobs throughout the legitimate distribution chain.
  • Youth smoking rates, including menthol cigarettes, are at historical lows and the federal legal age of purchase is now 21.
  • A far better approach is to support the establishment of a marketplace of FDA-authorized non-combustible alternatives to which adult smokers can switch.

 

We will fully engage in this multi-year process with a focus on the science and evidence.

Additional Background and Activity

The Family Smoking Prevention and Tobacco Control Act directed the FDA's Tobacco Products Scientific Advisory Committee to provide a report and recommendation on the impact of menthol cigarettes on public health. The committee submitted its report to the FDA in March 2011.

We actively participated in the TPSAC hearings and filed comments to FDA's dockets. We shared our perspective on the science and evidence relating to menthol, including our view that menthol cigarettes are not more toxic than non-menthol cigarettes, and that menthol does not play a unique role in smoking prevalence, dependence or cessation. Review our TPSAC presentations and comments.

In 2013, the FDA published an Advance Notice of Proposed Rulemaking seeking information from the public regarding potential regulation of menthol in cigarettes. With this notice, the FDA also released its independent review of the science related to menthol in cigarettes. This included an external peer review of the FDA’s assessment of the science. 

Then, in 2018, FDA published an Advance Notice of Proposed Rulemaking on flavors in tobacco products, including menthol in cigarettes.

We filed comments to both FDA dockets. Our review of the science and evidence in both 2013 and 2018 confirmed our view that menthol cigarettes are not more toxic than non-menthol cigarettes, and that menthol does not play a unique role in smoking prevalence, dependence or cessation.

In addition, in 2018, we filed comments to a separate FDA docket seeking comment on possible unintended consequences of product standards, including a ban on menthol in combustible cigarettes. We believe that a product standard banning flavors, including menthol in combustible cigarettes, will likely create a substantial illicit market.