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AACR Applauds FDA’s Proposed Plan to Prohibit Menthol Cigarettes and Flavored Cigars

Washington, D.C. – The American Association for Cancer Research (AACR) strongly supports the actions taken by the Center for Tobacco Products at the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to publish two draft tobacco product standards to prohibit the manufacturing, distribution, and sale of menthol cigarettes and flavored cigars. These are important actions to reduce tobacco-related cancer and address health disparities.

“Today’s announcement is a critical piece of the Administration’s plan to reignite the Cancer Moonshot and achieve its goal of reducing the death rate from cancer by at least 50 percent over the next 25 years,” said Margaret Foti, PhD, MD (hc), chief executive officer of the AACR. “The AACR strongly supports the development of evidence-based tobacco control policies aimed at reducing the burden of death and disease caused by tobacco use, which is the leading preventable cause of death in the United States and around the world. Therefore, and consistent with the scientific evidence demonstrating that menthol cigarettes have an adverse impact on public health, the AACR strongly supports the FDA’s plan to ban the addition of menthol as a characterizing flavor to cigarettes and other combustible tobacco products.” 

Many studies have demonstrated menthol and other flavors increase smoking initiation, make it harder to quit smoking, and result in greater nicotine exposures. Youth who initiate smoking with menthol cigarettes are more likely to establish daily, regular smoking than those who initiate with non‐menthol cigarettes, and adolescents who smoke menthol cigarettes have a higher prevalence of nicotine dependence and more severe nicotine addiction than those who smoke non‐menthol cigarettes.

Moreover, the danger of menthol-flavored cigarettes falls disproportionately on African Americans, who are more likely to smoke menthol cigarettes. African Americans who smoke menthol cigarettes are also less likely to quit smoking successfully than African Americans who smoke non-menthol cigarettes. Banning menthol flavoring would be an important step toward reducing tobacco-associated harm to this population and would curtail a longstanding tobacco industry marketing approach targeting African Americans, including youth.

“I commend the FDA for taking this important action on menthol cigarettes. Today’s important announcement is estimated to save hundreds of thousands of lives and spare many more people from developing cancer,” said Roy S. Herbst, MD, PhD, deputy director for clinical affairs at Yale Cancer Center, assistant dean for translational research at Yale School of Medicine, and chair of the AACR Science Policy and Government Affairs Committee. “The AACR has advocated for a menthol ban for nearly ten years, and we won’t stop until this product standard is finalized.”