FDA Commissioner Scott Gottlieb, M.D. on efforts to reduce tobacco use among youth, by addressing the role of flavors ‒ including menthol ‒ in tobacco products

Editor’s Note: See OIRA Watch: FDA to Evaluate Minimally or Non-Addictive Cigarette Product Standard, Also Plans to Look at Flavors and Premium Cigars

From: US FDA 


As noted in today’s ANPRM, youth consistently report product flavoring as a leading reason for using tobacco products. Flavors may disguise the taste of tobacco. But flavored cigarettes and little cigars are every bit as addictive as any other tobacco products, have the same harmful health effects and may even make it harder to quit. In fact, there’s evidence indicating that youth tobacco users who reported their first tobacco product was flavored had a higher prevalence of current tobacco product use compared to youth whose first product was not flavored. In particular, among youth who have ever tried a cigar, more than 65 percent have reported that their first cigar use was flavored. Additionally, youth and young adult smokers are disproportionately more likely to smoke menthol than nonmenthol cigarettes. And we know that youth who initiate smoking with menthol cigarettes (compared with youth who initiate with non-menthol cigarettes) may be at greater risk of progression from experimentation to established smoking and nicotine dependence.

Because almost 90 percent of adult smokers started smoking by the age of 18, it’s imperative we look at new ways we can ensure that kids don’t progress from experimentation to regular use.

But when it comes to flavors in non-combustible products like electronic nicotine delivery systems or e-cigarettes we recognize the issue involves additional considerations. Here, it’s possible for flavors to do both harm and good. The troubling reality is that e-cigarettes are the most commonly used tobacco product among middle and high school students, and flavors are identified as one of the top three reasons for use. Given these findings, we need to be wary of the role flavors play in attracting youth to initiate on any tobacco product that could lead to regular use – something we clearly want to avoid. No child should use any tobacco products, including e-cigarettes. At the same time, we’re aware that certain flavors may help currently addicted adult smokers switch to potentially less harmful forms of nicotine-containing tobacco products.

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