The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) announced recently that the agency plans to propose new rules to adopt product standards to remove menthol from cigarettes and remove characterizing flavor additives from cigars. The proposed ban does not apply to e-cigarettes. In its announcement, the FDA states that the new proposed rules will be issued “within the next year.” Click here for more information.
In order to ban menthol cigarettes, the FDA would need to submit a proposed rule and seek public comment. Tobacco companies could also file lawsuits to stop the ban which will likely lead to a protracted court battle for many years to come. The Biden Administration had until yesterday, under a federal district judge order in Northern California, to respond to a citizens’ petition to ban menthols by indicating whether the agency plans to pursue a ban.
MPM and the Energy Marketers of America are concerned that such drastic measures could detrimentally impact small business retail fuel outlets who depend on the sale of tobacco products. Menthol cigarettes make up some 35 percent of overall cigarette sales, and in some regions or parts of communities, much more. Cigarette customers often end up purchasing other products which spurs economic activity, provides much-needed jobs, and supports local communities. Further compounding this economic challenge is the near certainty that menthol cigarette bans would further the already intense competition small businesses face from the illicit marketing of tobacco products. The National Academies of Science, Engineering and Medicine have estimated that illicit marketing already accounts for up to 1 in 5 cigarettes sold in the United States. Research has also found that a substantial percentage and perhaps the bulk of menthol cigarette sales would simply move to this black market in the event of a ban, further increasing competition with legitimate sources. The bottom line is that small business retail fuel outlets undertake significant efforts to train their employees how to not sell tobacco products to underage youth, efforts that contraband sellers will not make.