This public comment was submitted to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration on July 22, 2022.
Dr. Robert Califf
Commissioner, Food and Drug Administration
10903 New Hampshire Avenue
Silver Spring, MD 20993
RE: Docket No. FDA-2021-N-1349 Tobacco Product Standard for Menthol in Cigarettes
Dear Dr. Califf:
Reason Foundation is grateful for the opportunity to submit comments on the proposed rule to prohibit the use of menthol as a characterizing flavor in cigarettes. Reason Foundation’s nonpartisan public policy research promotes choice, competition, and a dynamic market economy as the foundation for human dignity and progress. Reason produces rigorous, peer-reviewed research and directly engages the policy process, seeking strategies that emphasize cooperation, flexibility, local knowledge, transparency, accountability, and results.
The available evidence suggests prohibition of menthol cigarettes will not present significant public health benefits to the population as a whole and will produce a suite of negative consequences undermining the FDA’s goals. While studied for decades, the evidence is either conflicted or directly contrary as to whether menthol cigarettes pose greater risks for smoking initiation, progression to regular smoking, increased dependence, and reduced cessation, particularly among African Americans, compared to non-menthol cigarettes.
The FDA has not sufficiently considered the effectiveness of menthol bans and tobacco prohibitions from other jurisdictions, the severe limitations on and public misperceptions of safer alternatives such as e-cigarettes, or the unintended consequences of possible increased cigarette consumption among those menthol smokers who switch to a non-menthol product.
The FDA has also not accounted for the extremely low levels of youth cigarette use, for which menthol remains the least favored option. Furthermore, such a prohibition will result in a host of unintended consequences, including increased tobacco smuggling, burdens on law enforcement, and more frequent interactions between law enforcement and minority communities.