FDA to consider potential ban on menthol cigarettes

Agency must respond to ‘citizen petition’ this month.

Updated: April 24, 2021 - 6:36pm

The Facts Inside Our Reporter’s Notebook


The U.S. Food and Drug Administration this month will consider a potential ban on the sale of menthol cigarettes in the U.S., responding to a unique type of petition that compels it to issue a decision on the matter one way or the other.

The FDA permits citizens and organizations to present it with "citizen petitions," requests for the agency to consider changes to U.S. public health policy. 

One petition submitted in 2013 by the Tobacco Control Legal Consortium "[urged] the FDA to remove menthol cigarettes from the market" due to their purported outsize negative health effects. The FDA recently agreed as part of a court arbitration process to respond to that petition by Apr. 29 of this year. 

Advocates have cited the purported disparate health impacts that menthols have on nonwhite smokers.  Among young adult black American smokers, 85% smoke menthols, as opposed to less than a third of white smokers. Young children who start smoking are also at high likelihood for smoking menthols, data indicate. 

The petition claims that mentholated cigarettes "increase initiation of smoking and decrease cessation" and that "the health benefits of a menthol prohibition would outweigh any perceived challenges" in banning it.