CHESTCHEST NewsCHEST Commends FDA on Pledge to Ban Menthol Cigarettes

CHEST Commends FDA on Pledge to Ban Menthol Cigarettes

The American College of Chest Physicians (CHEST) supports the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) statement pledging to “ban menthol as a characterizing flavor in cigarettes and ban all characterizing flavors (including menthol) in cigars” within the next year.

The Biden administration’s actions are in direct response to science-based studies that show menthol in cigarettes leads to greater initiation of smoking among youth, makes it harder to quit smoking, and has a disproportionate adverse impact on the health of Black Americans. In March, CHEST joined with nearly 80 medical and public health organizations in a direct plea to the FDA to hold to their own findings that menthol cigarettes have an adverse impact on public health.

“There is excellent scientific evidence from the FDA supporting the fact that menthol cigarettes increased the initiation and progression of smoking among youth and young adults and increased nicotine addiction, especially among smokers who are Black. They have never wavered from the conclusion of their findings,” stated John Studdard, MD, FCCP, CHEST Past President and Health Policy and Advocacy consultant.

In their 2013 report, the FDA concluded that menthol cigarettes are easier for kids to start smoking, more addictive, and harder for smokers to quit. The science has continually confirmed the disproportionate impact:

  • Across race/ethnic groups, those who used to regularly smoke mentholated cigarettes were less likely to have experienced long-term quitting success.
  • Black/African Americans are dying at higher rates than other groups from heart disease, cancer, stroke, and other tobacco-related diseases. Tobacco-related diseases are the leading cause of death for Black/African Americans, claiming 45,000 Black/African American lives each year.
  • Centers for Disease Control and Prevention found that smoking increases the risk for severe illness from COVID-19, which has taken a disproportionate toll on the Black/African American community.

In addition to the attractive lure of menthol flavoring for kids, which masks the harsh taste of tobacco, the tobacco industry has heavily marketed these cigarettes to predominately Black communities. The tobacco industry has also tried to shift the focus of the proposed ban to increase fears of unjust criminalization. Regulations would focus enforcement efforts on manufacturers and retailers, not individual consumers.

“As CHEST focuses its attention on health disparities, we recognize and deplore the disproportionate toll on African American communities. We applaud the Biden administration for heeding the evidence collected by the FDA and their commitment to banning the manufacturing and distribution of menthol cigarettes and other flavors in mass-produced cigars,” stated Steven Q. Simpson, MD, FCCP, President of CHEST.

CHEST commends the administration for staying focused on their promise to follow the science and centered on addressing racial and health equity for all.

About the American College of Chest Physicians

The American College of Chest Physicians® (CHEST) is the global leader in the prevention, diagnosis, and treatment of chest diseases. Its mission is to champion advanced clinical practice, education, communication, and research in chest medicine. It serves as an essential connection to clinical knowledge and resources for its 19,000+ members from around the world who provide patient care in pulmonary, critical care, and sleep medicine. For information about the American College of Chest Physicians, and its flagship journal CHEST®, visit

Food and Drug Administration. Preliminary Scientific Evaluation of the Possible Public Health Effects of Menthol Versus Nonmenthol Cigarettes. Food and Drug Administration; 2013.

Jamal A, King BA, Neff LJ, et al. Current cigarette smoking among adults—United States, 2005-2015. MMWR Morb Mortal Wkly Rep. 2016;65(44):1205-1211.

American Cancer Society. Cancer Facts & Figures for African Americans, 2016-2018. American Cancer Society; 2016.