Is the FDA Coming After Menthol Cigarettes?

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After the FDA announced plans to open a comment period on menthol, a number of senators pen letter urging the agency to ban menthol cigarette sales.

A number of Democratic senators are taking a stand against menthol cigarettes and imploring the FDA to take action.

U.S. Senators Ed Markey and Elizabeth Warren, (D-Mass) appealed to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) in a letter to FDA Commissioner Scott Gottlieb earlier this week, asking the FDA to “act on the substantial scientific data” and use its authority under the Tobacco Control Act to end menthol cigarette sales.

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According to a report by MassLive, the Senators pointed to the FDA’s commitment to preventing young teens from smoking, and said the marketing of menthol cigarettes could “significantly undermine this progress.”

A number of senators signed the letter, including U.S. Sens. Patty Murray, (D-Wash); Jack Reed, (D-R.I.); Chris Van Hollen, (D-Md.); Richard Blumenthal, (D-Conn.); Sherrod Brown, (D-Ohio); and Sheldon Whitehouse, (D-R.I.).

In its arguments the letter noted independent and FDA assessments that show menthol cigarettes “pose a public health risk above that seen with non-menthol cigarettes.”

The letter further noted the tobacco industry “has a long history of targeting menthol cigarettes to African Americans and, in particular, African American youth” — which they said has resulted in health disparities, including African Americans seeing the most tobacco-related deaths of any ethnic or racial group in the country, MassLive reported.

The letter followed an announcement by FDA that it plans to open another public comment period on menthol. It has been four years since FDA released an advance notice of proposed rule making on menthol cigarettes—back in 2013, and the senators are urging the agency to begin taking concrete steps.

The letter requested specific actions from FDA, including that the FDA outline the steps it has taken to address the risk of menthol in cigarettes since the advanced notice of proposed rule making in 2013; explain what has contributed to the delay in the agency finalizing action to remove menthol from cigarettes; and create a timeline for finalizing regulations to address the risk of menthol in cigarettes.