TFND Submits Comment to FDA Regarding Menthol Ban

TFND submitted a comment to the FDA during the public comment period for the proposed menthol flavor ban. TFND supports this action as more and more research is showing how menthol is making it harder for those smoking cigarettes to quit, as well as menthol having a long history of targeting the African-American community. Below is the comment we submitted for the FDA’s review.

“We thank the FDA for coming forward with this rule. Flavored tobacco products present a
monumental risk to the next generation of children. Tobacco Free North Dakota is a statewide
nonprofit based in Bismarck, North Dakota, with a mission of improving and protecting the
public health of all North Dakotans by reducing the serious health and economic consequences
of tobacco use, the state’s number one cause of preventable disease and death. The proposed
rule regarding menthol flavoring is a good start, but we believe it can be improved by changing
menthol restrictions from the “characterizing flavor” level to the “additive” level.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, among other government
sources, menthol is an additive in almost every cigarette. Only 37 percent of the cigarettes sold
in the United States contained enough menthol to be designated at the “characterizing flavor”
level. Menthol flavoring adds a cooling sensation for the user and helps mask the harshness of
tobacco. By changing the rule to address menthol as an additive, it would affect nearly all
commercial cigarettes, significantly increasing the potential public health impact.

A 2020 study printed in Addictive Behaviors Reports analyzed the flavored-tobacco sales ban in
San Francisco, California and the effect of tobacco product use on 18-34 year-olds. The city
enacted this ban in 2019, which included menthol cigarettes. The analysis showed that the sales
ban on flavored products reduced the use of all flavored tobacco products, as well as e-
cigarettes and cigars. While this is encouraging, the study also showed 65 percent of
respondents didn’t feel the ban was being thoroughly enforced. Many respondents also
claimed they were able to access flavored products in multiple ways. The study concluded
flavor bans could be a potential tool, but shouldn’t be used as a sole action.

Again, we applaud this effort to protect against the harms caused by menthol in tobacco
products and we hope to see further steps forward for tobacco prevention and control in the
near future. Thank you.

Citation: Yang, Yong et al. “The impact of a comprehensive tobacco product flavor
ban in San Francisco among young adults.” Addictive behaviors reports vol. 11
100273. 1 Apr. 2020, doi:10.1016/j.abrep.2020.100273