FDA Moves To Ban Menthol Cigarettes And Flavored Cigars, Restrict Vaping

An "astonishing" uptick in teens’ use of e-cigarettes helped drive the proposed rules, said FDA chief Scott Gottlieb.

The Food and Drug Administration announced plans Thursday to greatly restrict the sales of flavored tobacco products, proposing to ban menthol cigarettes and flavored cigars entirely and to limit the sales of flavored e-cigarettes by certain retailers.

Under the proposed rules, retailers selling flavored e-cigarettes would have to display them in a section of the store that’s off-limits to anyone under the age of 18. The restriction would essentially prevent convenience stores and gas stations from selling such e-cigarettes.

FDA Commissioner Scott Gottlieb said in a statement that the agency was driven to act by an “astonishing” uptick in vaping among young Americans.

E-cigarette use among high school students grew 78 percent from 2017 to 2018, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s 2018 National Youth Tobacco Survey. The concurrent increase among middle school students was 48 percent.

“These data shock my conscience,” said Dr. Gottlieb. “These increases must stop. And the bottom line is this: I will not allow a generation of children to become addicted to nicotine through e-cigarettes.”

“We won’t let this pool of kids, a pool of future potential smokers, of future disease and death, to continue to build,” he added. “We’ll take whatever action is necessary to stop these trends from continuing.”

The data show that underage smokers are also disproportionately likely to use menthol cigarettes and flavored cigars.

“More than half (54 percent) of youth smokers ages 12-17 use menthol cigarettes, compared to less than one-third of smokers ages 35 and older,” said Gottlieb. “Prevalence of menthol use is even higher among African-American youth, with data showing that seven out of 10 African-American youth smokers select menthol cigarettes.”

The proposed restriction on e-cigarette sales would not cover tobacco-, mint- or menthol-flavored products. However, Gottlieb warned that the FDA would continue to monitor their use among teens.

These limits may also take a while to be implemented. Technically, the FDA has only announced a Notice of Proposed Rulemaking to alter the regulations.