Tobacco manufacturers have used menthol cigarettes for years to target vulnerable populations. In fact, according to national surveys, menthol cigarettes are the source of addiction for nearly half of all teen smokers. Menthol increases the palatability of smoking, especially among youth and members of racial and ethnic populations, and menthol increases the difficulty of quitting. Yet when Congress prohibited most cigarettes with flavorings as part of the 2009 Family Smoking Prevention and Tobacco Control Act, it exempted the most important flavoring of all: menthol.
This section contains resources on menthol in tobacco products and federal, state and local policy options for regulating menthol in tobacco products.
January 15, 2016: Ruling Allows FDA Action on Menthol
In 2009, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) created a group of scientists called the Tobacco Products Scientific Advisory Committee (TPSAC) to guide agency decision-making. The 2009 Family Smoking Prevention and Tobacco Control Act directed TPSAC to take up the issue of menthol tobacco products as its first order of business. A TPSAC report on menthol was quickly challenged and thrown out by a district court judge sympathetic to the tobacco industry, preventing the FDA from moving forward. This changed on January 15, when a circuit court reversed the earlier district court decision based on an appeal from the FDA.