Press Room

Prohibiting Menthol in Cigarettes and Cigars Will Improve the Public’s Health

ARLINGTON, VA (April 29, 2021)— The Association of State and Territorial Health Officials (ASTHO) and its members support FDA actions in advancing two tobacco product standards rulemaking processes to remove menthol as a characterizing flavor in cigarettes and removing all flavors including menthol from cigars. This action will present enormous public health benefits including reducing overall smoking rates, in turn also reducing the number of preventable deaths every year.

Menthol, along with other flavors, serves as one of the primary reasons that kids start using tobacco products. Tobacco products containing menthol have been disproportionately marketed to African Americans, specifically, through culturally tailored messaging in television, radio, and print media advertising since the 1960s.

“Decades of data show the cooling flavor in cigarettes makes it easier to start and keep smoking. A prohibition on mentholated tobacco products would be a positive shift in favor of years of state and local efforts by tobacco prevention and control programs,” says Marcus Plescia, ASTHO’s chief medical officer.

Tobacco use remains the leading preventable cause of death in the United States, accounting for over 480,000 deaths each year. Menthol cigarettes have also been found to increase both the likelihood of becoming addicted and the degree of addiction. Scientific evidence also indicates that menthol smokers are less likely than non-menthol smokers to successfully quit smoking despite having a higher urge to end their tobacco dependence.

“Removing menthol from cigarettes and all flavors including menthol from cigars is sound public health policy for many reasons but specifically toward addressing health disparities for Black Americans who have been disproportionately targeted by industry marketing,” says Michael Fraser, CEO of ASTHO. “As with all public health issues, officials see the burden of high smoking rates on their state healthcare and productivity costs. Federal action on restricting the use of all flavored tobacco products without exemptions to menthol cigarettes brings the opportunity for us to fully realize the intention of the 2009 Family Smoking Prevention and Tobacco Control Act.”

State and territorial health agencies are committed to protecting the health of children and adults through policy efforts that restrict the use of tobacco flavors, including menthol, to reduce overall smoking rates in the United States and its territories.

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ASTHO is the national nonprofit organization representing the public health agencies of the United States, the U.S. territories and Freely Associated States, and the District of Columbia, as well as the more than 100,000 public health professionals these agencies employ. ASTHO members, the chief health officials of these jurisdictions, are dedicated to formulating and influencing sound public health policy and to ensuring excellence in public health practice.